Ice Cream News
Acclaimed ice cream shop edged out of storefront in Dallas' Bishop Arts
After five years in Dallas' Bishop Arts District, an acclaimed Miami-born ice cream shop has been given the boot. Azucar Ice Cream, located at 269 N. Bishop Ave., is leaving the space at the end of July, to be replaced by a location of Botolino Gelato Artigianale, a Dallas gelato chain.
Azucar owner Suzy Batlle says they are not leaving voluntarily. Azucar had a five-year lease for the space which expired at the end of March.
Batlle says she was given the impression by her landlord, Exxir Capital, that Azucar would be able to extend the lease for another five years.
"Our lease expired March 31," Batlle says. "It did include an option to renew. Unfortunately, we started negotiating after the renewal option period. So Exxir was legally able to not renew us. But that doesn't mean it was right to do so and we should have been allowed the right to match other offers and keep our lease."
Azucar, an artisanal ice cream shop known for its Cuban and tropical flavors, was founded in Miami in 2011. They've earned numerous awards and nods in national magazines such as Bon Appetit. The Dallas shop opened in 2018, and a second Florida location opened in February 2023.
Batlle became familiar with Bishop Arts while visiting her brother and mother, who resided in Dallas. She took out a $250,000 loan to build the store, at a time when Exxir's new development at Melba Street wasn't yet complete.
"We didn't even have a sidewalk in front," she says.
With her lease about to end, Batlle says she and her team met in February with Exxir CEO Michael Nazerian, who assured them they could re-sign for another five years. But Nazerian, seeking backup tenants, had already contacted Botolino founder Carlo Gattini.
"Michael said, 'I have a friend who makes ice cream who wants this unit,'" Batlle says.
"I said, 'I've been here for five years, I built it from ground up, and during that five years, we had two years of COVID,'" she says.
"He asked if we would match what [Botolino] would pay, and I said, 'Of course,'" she says.
But more than a week after Batlle was expecting to receive a new contract, she got an email from Nazerian stating that the space would no longer be hers.
"I spoke at length to the small business owner that currently has the space under LOI and – though he was sympathetic – he was not willing to rescind our agreement," Nazerian said in his email. "Once I've given my word to someone – and that is what I consider an LOI to be – I feel duty bound to honor that," Nazerian said.
"LOI" is a "letter of intent" – a written document in which two parties agree to do business together.
In his email to Batlle, Nazerian says they tried to be "excessively fair" by "allowing opportunities to extend on favorable terms despite the lapsed renewal option."
A spokesperson for Exxir says that "Azucar has brought much joy to the neighborhood and to Exxir as one of our first tenants. They've contributed greatly to the charm of the Bishop Arts District for over five years. We're very sad to see them go and truly hope they will stay close!"
For Gattini, this will be the third Botolino, following the original on Greenville Avenue and a second location at Preston Royal. He says he hopes to have the Bishop Arts shop open in the fall.
"I was offered the location, we came to an agreement, that's all I know," he says.
Batlle recalls Gattini visiting her shop in July 2018, right after she opened. "He didn't say hello or congratulations – just, 'I need a store here'," she says.
Mindful of keeping her employees on the payroll, Batlle stayed open in Dallas during the pandemic. She also has a loyal following for her ice cream. These are reasons for her to stay, and she's currently shopping for a new location.
"We have an amazing ice cream maker here in Dallas, we make all our ice cream on site," she says. "I would love to keep her employed."