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Loyal fans of shuttered Irvine ice cream shop open a new Stricklands in Costa Mesa

Stricklands employee Amber Markham displays a pistachio ice cream waffle cone.
Stricklands employee Amber Markham displays a pistachio ice cream waffle cone Friday with Nicholas Liu, owner Neil Liu and Jordan Smart during the shop’s grand opening in Costa Mesa.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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When Stricklands, a beloved ice cream shop on Campus Drive near UC Irvine, closed its doors in 2018 after 15 years of service, local resident and regular patron Neil Liu was crushed.

He and wife Stephanie, along with their two sons, had become devotees of the super creamy machine-churned concoctions and regularly walked from their home to try the always rotating flavors of the day.

“I was a die-hard fan, going all the time,” Liu recalled Friday. “After they closed, every time we had dessert or a birthday party, we’d sit around and say, ‘Why isn’t there a Stricklands around?’”

Stricklands owner Neil Liu takes an order from local family.
Stricklands owner Neil Liu takes an order from local family Friday during the grand opening of his new shop in Costa Mesa.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Previous owners Randy and Donna Nettles were forced to shutter the establishment on Dec. 30, 2018, when landlord the Irvine Co. chose not to renew their lease, the OC Weekly reported at the time. The closure was a hard pill to swallow for loyal customers, who formed lines so long the business had to close a day early.

And, if it weren’t for corporate burnout, that may have been the end of the story. But years later, feeling uninspired by years of working as an executive, then a consultant, in the manufacturing industry, Liu decided to take a different path — straight back to Stricklands.

“I wanted to do something to get away from corporate life. So I reached out to Stricklands about starting a franchise, and they said yeah,” Liu said.

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The new Stricklands Ice Cream opened Friday in a storefront on Costa Mesa’s Newport Boulevard, bringing a menu of flavors from the family-run parent company in Ohio — which first opened as a frozen custard shop in 1936 — back to Orange County.

Stricklands president of marketing Scott Margroff, left, with Jordan Smart, Amber Markham and Nicholas Liu.
Stricklands president of marketing Scott Margroff, left, shows Jordan Smart, Amber Markham and Nicholas Liu how to build a strawberry shortcake sundae.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Along with vanilla and chocolate, which have a permanent home on the menu, Friday’s flavors were banana and pistachio. The Lius added salted caramel for customers, who expressed their joy at the return of their beloved local creamery.

“I really want to thank all our loyal followers,” Liu said. “Once they got a whiff of us coming back, they started following us. Donna and Randy, they brought the legacy. I’m just carrying a torch and continuing it.”

A calendar of the month’s daily flavors, which include local favorites like taro and green tea, can be found online at mystricklands.com/costa-mesa. Those who prefer serendipity can travel to 1835 Newport Blvd, Suite B-121 in the Costa Mesa Courtyards shopping complex.

Neil Liu and son and employee Nicholas, from left, during the grand opening Friday of Stricklands Ice Cream in Costa Mesa.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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