14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 6 October 2023 — A scoop of ice cream is a good indicator of the rate of inflation in Cuba. After being closed for more than a year, the former BimBom — previously one of Havana’s most popular meeting spots — had a sort of dress rehearsal on Friday in anticipation of its latest reopening. With a pushcart, an umbrella and a new name, Bueníssimo Soderia Gourmet will soon begin selling its ice cream at prices that startled the first curious onlookers who stopped to check it out.
“They say it’s a local business but at those prices…” says one startled woman as she quickly walks away from the cart at the entrance to the store, located at 23 Infanta Street in Vedado. An artisinal chocolate, strawberry, yogurt or berry ice cream cones goes for a hefty 195 pesos.
It already promises to top the list of privately managed businesses that have opened recently in central Havana whose prices seem more geared to tourists than to locals. According to the pushcart vendor, the store — it has been undergoing renovation for several months and construction workers can still be seen coming and going — is expected to open at the end of the month.
Its latest reopening could signal a resurgence of privately-run businesses in this Havana enclave. Whether or not it succeeds given its high prices remains a mystery
Buenísimo Soda Gourmet is the successor to the famous BimBom, which opened during the dollarization frenzy of the 1990s. It quickly evolved from a simple ice cream parlor into a destination for young people and the LGBTQ community. From its strategic location on the corner where bustling 23rd Street meets the Malecón, it boosted the nightlife in the area between the sea, the Rampa cinema and the fountain running down the rockface alongside the Hotel Nacional.
But the good times came to an end and BimBom had to close its doors. Then, in 2020, the state-owned business conglomerate Cimex reopened it, selling a wide variety of Italian ice creams that, though expensive, did sell. Unfortunately, currency unification and broken machinery spelled doom for the famous ice cream parlor. With the once desirable Rampa area around it in serious decline by the summer of 2022, it closed its doors again.
Its latest reopening could signal a resurgence of privately-run businesses in this Havana enclave. Whether or not it succeeds given its high prices remains a mystery. About a mile and a half away, on San Rafael Street in Central Havana, is Monte Freddo, an ice cream parlor with a product superior to that of Bueníssimo, where two scoops go for 330 pesos.
The portions are much smaller than those at the new place in Rampa. Curiously, however, it was exactly two years ago that 14ymedio published an article, “The Sky-High Price of Ice Cream”, on the spectacular price increases at Monte Freddo caused by currency unification. At that point, a single scoop had gone from 50 to 70 pesos. Little did we know the nightmare had only just begun.
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.