This ice cream shop doesn't count calories but causes.
When the Dream Cream Ice Cream shop opens at 539 Liberty Ave. on March 30, it is hoping to meet a need with each cone it serves.
Every month, the shop will select up to 12 "dreamers" -- individuals or groups -- who have a specific need for cash, and ask each of them to choose a flavor.
Those flavors will then be sold the entire month, with 25 percent of the proceeds going back to the person or group in support of their need or cause.
In exchange, each "dreamer" must volunteer to work at the shop two days a week, seven hours a day, after it first opens. The goal is to taper that down to one to two days a week, four to seven hours a day.
"We'll be serving ice cream, but we'll literally be serving the community as well," said Alecia Shipman, a co-founder of Dream Cream Ice Cream. "We'll be able to empower people financially and change their lives."
Ms. Shipman said "dreamers" can be almost anyone with a need -- the college student trying to raise money to help pay for tuition, the homeowner looking to finance roof repairs, the working mom struggling to buy back-to-school clothes, the nonprofit hoping to raise cash for cancer research.
The emphasis, she stressed, is on needs -- not wants.
"We will not support someone's dream to have a Rolex watch," she said.
Ms. Shipman hopes to have 10 to 12 people or groups selling cones and causes at the shop each month. They will be able to select from 70 flavors of premium ice cream. The shop has been talking to New York-based Perry's Ice Cream about making the ice cream, but has yet to select a manufacturer.
Ms. Shipman hopes to keep the store open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., March through October, but that will depend on the number of volunteers she gets.
Given that it's giving away 25 percent of its revenues, the shop is counting heavily on volunteers with only minimal paid help. "The business model doesn't survive when you're paying people and giving money away at the same time," Ms. Shipman noted.
While the shop is considered part of the Project Pop-Up initiative advanced by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership that has brought temporary tenants to the city center, Ms. Shipman hopes Dream Cream Ice Cream will become a permanent addition on Liberty Avenue.
Joanna Doven, a spokeswoman for the mayor, called the ice cream shop "a great addition" to the Pop-Up program, which is designed to fill vacant storefronts. She said other participants will be announced within the next couple of weeks.
"We made sure that we picked unique and diverse projects that tell a story, promote a cause or bring an extra level of vibrancy to Downtown," she said.
While some "dreamers" have been identified for the ice cream shop's first month, Ms. Shipman said the shop is still looking for others. Those interested can apply at www.dreamcreamicecream.com. A committee that includes Ms. Shipman, co-founder Thomas Jamison and others will make the selections.
Ms. Shipman works as cultivation manager at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, overseeing education, artist training, art appreciation and outreach programs. Mr. Jamison operates Xtraordinary League, a marketing company that plans and manages events for the benefit of underserved communities.
For Dream Cream Ice Cream, the plan is to have individuals or groups selected by March 24 when an orientation is planned.
"Right now, our goal is to make sure we hit the ground running and start off strong," Ms. Shipman said.
She said she always has had an interest in producing and selling ice cream but wanted something more fulfilling than simply being in business to make money. That's when she struck on the idea of blending cones and needs -- a twist, but not of the vanilla-chocolate variety.
"It's a great opportunity to help people who may be struggling with problems," she said.
Dream Cream Ice Cream will be the second ice cream shop opening this spring Downtown. Ben & Jerry's will open at 936 Penn Ave. in April or May. It is being operated by Life'sWork, a Western Pennsylvania nonprofit that helps people with disabilities and other barriers to employment.
Mark Belko: email@example.com or 412-263-1262.