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The scoop on Dear Bella Creamery’s first venture outside L.A.

Co-owners Alice Cherng, left, and Belinda Wei at their newly opened Dear Bella Creamery at the Lab Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa.
Co-owners Alice Cherng, left, and Belinda Wei at their newly opened Dear Bella Creamery at the Lab Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Vegan friends and foodies Alice Cherng and Belinda Wei spent most of their friendship eating out, and while there were many options for vegan diners in Los Angeles at the time, they found vegan desserts to be less satisfying.

“At the end of every meal we want something sweet, and we could never find something that was up to our standards,” said Cherng.

Wei said they just couldn’t find the ice cream flavors of their childhood in plant-based form.

“You have classic flavors like cookies and cream and chocolate, but when you look for a nondairy ice cream, it is just sorbets usually,” said Wei.

Wei has an extensive culinary background and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, while Cherng began working in the restaurant industry after feeling unfulfilled in her career as a CPA. The two met in 2015 working the line at a vegan restaurant. They bonded over their vegan lifestyle and shared Taiwanese heritage.

Housemade "honee"-comb toppings, made from vegan honey, at Dear Bella Creamery.
Housemade “honee"-comb toppings, made from vegan honey, at the newly opened Dear Bella Creamery at the Lab Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“We started trying to make our own vegan ice cream at home,” said Cherng.

The pair launched Dear Bella Creamery in 2017 and thought they might get a pushcart at the farmers market, but they soon made a name for themselves in the L.A. vegan market with a location on Vine Street in Hollywood.

Dear Bella uses a variety of bases to create the rich and creamy texture of regular ice cream in their treats.

“Our primary base is an oat milk and coconut blend, it is our own blend,” said Cherng. “We also have a just-coconut base and we also have nut butter base, using peanut butter, sunflower butter.”

Besides scoops and pints, Dear Bella also offers soft-serve, floats, ice cream cakes, ice cream sandwiches and shakes.

Premium Sammies ice cream cookies, bottom left, are one vegan ice cream option at Dear Bella.
Premium Sammies ice cream cookies, bottom left, are among the various vegan ice cream options at the newly opened Dear Bella Creamery at the Lab Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The menu features a quarterly rotation of 16 ice cream flavors with classics like rocky road, cookies and cream and cream and strawberry. But customers will also find flavors in their AAPI collection that honor their Taiwanese roots, like black sesame and Taiwanese pineapple cake.

“We have 16 flavors, and at any point, we will have at least two if not three or four Asian-influenced flavors,” said Cherng. “Primarily, Taiwanese because that is what Belinda and I are.”

They have created some exciting options for the winter quarter of December through February, which will fall within Lunar New Year.

“We created two flavors that are specific to Chinese or Taiwanese New Year for us,” said Cherng. “Tang yuan, which is basically a hot mochi stuffed with black sesame and peanut, we made that into an ice cream. The second one is a Taiwanese square cookie which is a little biscuit that we had growing up. Those are very nostalgic flavors for us.”

The partners heard about a storefront vacancy at the LAB Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa and signed a lease and quickly opened in October making the new location their first venture into Orange County.

“We are very excited to be in Orange County,” said Cherng. “This is very different for us, but it was a very intentional decision to come here. We love the community, we love the space here. I think Orange County is very unique in its offering and its people and what they are looking for. It is different than L.A., and I like that.”

So far Dear Bella Creamery has enjoyed a warm welcome.

“The reception has been very positive,” Cherng said. “The vegan scene is not as extensive here as it is in L.A., but I think it is growing, and that’s why we wanted to come here.”

Wei agrees.

“The most rewarding part is finally cultivating a space that everybody wants to be in,” said Wei.

Dear Bella’s expansion to Orange County is just one part of the growth they have planned for the business. They also recently launched nationwide shipping, which Wei said was not an easy process.

“It was painful,” said Wei, “just really exhausting.”

Cherng said they had to build their shipping production from scratch.

“It was everything from finding a designer to design a custom box to finding a manufacturer to manufacture the box. Also testing different insulated liners because it is traditionally Styrofoam, which we didn’t want to do, so we had to find one that was made of paper.”

They also had to source dry ice and figure our shipping costs, but they finally created a system for shipping they were satisfied with.

Vegan ice cream cones at the newly opened Dear Bella Creamery at the Lab Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa.
Vegan ice cream cones at the newly opened Dear Bella Creamery at the Lab Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Customers can choose any five pints for national shipping, and orders are shipped every Tuesday from Dear Bella’s Los Angeles location. Orders should be placed by Sunday at midnight to make it in for Tuesday shipping with arrival within about one to two business days.

Now Wei and Cherng are focused on spreading the word about their ice cream.

“Delivering our messaging is challenging. We are always trying to get the word out and share this,” said Cherng. “But when people do find out and they come and taste it, it is an experience for them.”

“Once they know, it is a game changer,” said Wei.

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