Thrillist calls Mashti Malone’s one of the best ice cream shops in America. Virgin Atlantic named it one of the best in the world. CNN says it has some of the most original flavors in the country.
Tucked away in a mini-mall right off of Sunset Boulevard in the heart of Hollywood, California, this venerable spot for foodies and dessert lovers is run by two brothers, Mashti and Mehdi Shirvani. For the last 40 years, they have been scooping out some of the most surprising flavors ever known to taste buds, long before artisanal ice cream became a thing.
“We were the first to make lavender ice cream,” Mehdi Shirvani says. They also make Middle Eastern-influenced flavors such as ginger rosewater and pomegranate sorbet, saffron pistachio, dates, sour cherry and Persian cucumber, as well as all-time favorites like chocolate chip, strawberry and rocky road.
Mashti Shirvani is the obsessed inventor churning out an endless lineup of unique flavors from the giant ice cream maker in the back room. At the market, he scours the produce sections for fresh ingredients and rushes back to his laboratory to try it out in ice cream form. Currently, he is experimenting with grapefruit and grape for the summer.
“I used to work from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.,” Mashti Shirvani says. “When I’m in a good mood, I don’t want to waste it—I come here and work on the things.”
Some mixtures have up to 14 herbs in them, all of which he grinds up and mixes on his own. He also refuses to use high-fructose corn syrup, even though it would be more cost-effective.
“If I’m successful in this business, that’s the main reason: I don’t go for the money, I go for the product. That makes a good product,” he says.
It was in 1980 when Mashti Shirvani, who was working as a chef after he emigrated from Iran, found a shuttered ice cream shop called Mugsy Malone’s. He scraped together all the money he had to buy the existing equipment and take over the lease. However, he didn’t have enough money to change the whole sign, so he changed only half of it and added his name—that’s how the name Mashti Malone’s came to be.
Over the years, as the shop began making a name for itself, they started making ice creams for chefs at upscale restaurants and selling it in bulk to ethnic food stores. Now, with the steady growth of the ice cream industry in recent years, the Shirvanis are finally looking to launch a major expansion of their business.
Since all Mashti Malone’s ice creams are made from fresh ingredients with no preservatives, they have a shorter shelf life in the freezer, and that means more space is needed to make and store larger quantities of fresh ice cream at a time.
Mehdi Shirvani, who handles more of the financial end of the business, says that although they have proceeded cautiously over the years, they are now ready to break out in a big way.
“We have plans to open multiple locations, hopefully by 2020,” he says. “We are looking for property to expand our plant and increase production.”
To achieve that, they took out SBA loans with East West Bank, where their relationship manager Nahid Yamini has helped them to get the tools and financing they needed for the last few decades.
“I am using the money to open new stores, buy equipment and do marketing, and East West Bank has been great to us,” Mehdi Shirvani says.
“Whatever they need, whoever calls the branch, we pick up the phone, we answer their question as soon as we can,” Yamini says.
SBA loans are a solid option for small businesses because they offer lower down payments, lower interest rates, and longer loan terms compared to conventional loans, according to Brandon Day, SBA business development team manager at East West Bank. They can be used toward commercial real estate purchases, construction, tenant improvements and equipment purchases, all of which Mashti Malone’s will need.
The SBA loans also are allowing the Shirvanis to hire a respected architect to give the original Hollywood shop a brand-new makeover. After 40 years, it’s long overdue.
“You have to deliver the best,” Mehdi Shirvani says. “That’s how you stay in business.”