Italian dessert shop coming to Massachusetts Street; Lawrence gets ranking from LGBT civil rights group

Gelato. Sorbet. Cannoli. Am I showing off my bilingual skills here? Of course. Am I pointing to stains on my tie? Well, yes, but neither of those are really the point. I’m mainly working up to tell you that a new dessert shop — with a specialty in Italian dishes — is coming to downtown Lawrence.

Lawrence businessman Dan Blomgren has signed a deal to open Crema Dolce — Italian for Sweet Cream — in the spot that Bloom Bath & Body is vacating in the coming days. In case you have forgotten, that’s the space at 704 Massachusetts St., right above Rudy’s Pizza. We previously have reported that Bloom is closing its Lawrence store

Blomgren owns Cibo Sano Italian Grille at Sixth and Wakarusa. In the last three-months, he’s begun offering a homemade line of gelato at the store.

Mission accomplished! New Gelato and Sorbet flavors made fresh today: 1. Rhum Raisin, Toasted Marshmallow, Cranberry…

Posted by Crema Dolce Gelateria on Wednesday, November 4, 2015

“The response has been so strong,” Blomgren said. “People have really loved the product, and I know there is so much activity downtown. I just told myself that I really needed to be downtown.”

Perhaps I should back up. I sometimes forget not everyone is as bilingual as I am. Gelato is basically Italian ice cream. Blomgren notes that it is actually made from milk rather than cream, which makes it “a little bit healthier.” The bigger difference, though, is that it has a lot less air whipped into it, making it a heavier, denser dessert than ice cream. (I knew air was what made ice cream unhealthy. That’s why I hardly ever take a breath while I’m eating it.)

As for sorbet, it also is a frozen dessert, but it is dairy free. Blomgren expects to have about 16 flavors of the dessert available. He’ll also offer the gelato in the forms of malts and shakes. All the desserts will be made in the store. Blomgren went to a culinary school in North Carolina earlier this year to get a crash course in gelato making.

Our offerings! #lawrenceks

A post shared by Crema Dolce Gelateria (@cremadolceku) on

Blomgren said he eventually wants the business to become a full dessert bar business. That doesn’t mean the business will be serving alcohol, but rather patrons would be able to belly up to a bar and order a variety of desserts. Blomgren said he’s been experimenting with tiramisu, creme brûlée, cannoli and other dishes.

“I’ll probably start out doing mostly Italian desserts, but I’ll go where the market takes me,” said Blomgren, who previously was in the liquor store business in Lawrence.

Blomgren said he plans to have the business open until 10 p.m. or so to take advantage of diners who are in downtown and want to cap the night off with something sweet. That seems to be a trend in downtown. I can think of five other dessert oriented businesses in downtown off the top of my head, and I very well may be forgetting someone: Sylas & Maddy’s ice cream; TCBY frozen yogurt and cookies; Hot Box Cookies; Cold Stone Creamery; and Billy Vanilly Cupcakes.

As for a timeline for Crema Dolce to open, Blomgren said he hopes to open sometime in March. He will get access to the space Jan. 1, and plans to begin renovations soon thereafter. That tells me that if you want to get any shopping done at Bloom, you had better do so in the next few days.

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In other news and notes from around town:

• Lawrence has made another ranking, and this one — perhaps more than most — shows how Lawrence is different from its neighbors.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, has released its annual Municipal Equality Index. It found Lawrence scores better than the national average in terms of equality issues for the LGBT community. What’s more interesting is how much more highly it scores than other cities in the state.

Lawrence received a score of 69 out of 100 in the report, which examines 41 factors that fall into categories such as nondiscrimination laws, municipality’s employment policies, inclusiveness of city services, law enforcement and municipal leadership on matters of equality. Lawrence’s score of 69 was better than the national average of 56. It also was significantly better than the Kansas average of 25.

The next highest ranked city in Kansas was Manhattan, with a score of 26. Others ranked were Kansas City, Kan., 24; Topeka, 24; Wichita, 21, Olathe, 8, and Overland Park, 8. It is interesting to note that of the 408 cities ranked by the organization, only 5 percent of them received a score below 10. Two of them were in Johnson County.

But just a few miles to the east, Kansas City, Mo. received the highest possible score from the group. KCMO was one of 47 cities that received a perfect score of 100 on the ranking.

As for Lawrence, its report card shows that it scored well for its nondiscrimination laws it has on the books, but missed out on points in some categories by lacking a nondiscrimination ordinance related to city contractors, by not having a LGBT police liaison or task force; and the absence of an LGBT liaison in the mayor’s office.

Other cities of note and their scores:

• Boulder, Colo.: 76

• Ames, Iowa: 70

• Iowa City: 100

• Columbia, Mo. 74

• Independence, Mo.: 17

• Lincoln, Neb.: 54

• Omaha, Neb.: 71

• Norman, Okla.: 43

• Stillwater, Okla.: 12

• Austin, Texas: 100

• Lubbock, Texas: 0

• Waco, Texas: 25