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From Pakistan to Richmond, journey of Danny’s Screamers comes to a close

Soft serve ice cream and slushie mixture at the corner of Garden City and Francis has become Richmond folklore
Mehdi Khataw (left) and brother Mikail Khataw cheers to some of the last Danny’s Screamers they may be tasting. They have different career ambitions, leaving father Abbas to close the longtime, family-run business. Graeme Wood photo.

A Danny’s Screamer. Start with a dollop of homemade, soft serve vanilla ice cream in a custom plastic cup. Add a perfectly viscous layer of slushie — flavour of your choice. Top it off with a swirl of ice cream and stick a jumbo straw in for adequate suction.

This special creation of Abbas ‘Danny’ Khataw has become Richmond folklore since its inception in 2000 at Danny’s Market at the corner of Garden City and Francis roads.

However, come June 17, the Danny’s Screamer era will end.

Many Richmondites have a favourite Danny’s Screamer creation. Few know its roots.

Picture Karachi, Pakistan in 1973. Khataw is six years old and playing with friends outside beneath a dusty, humid and sunny sky. A trip to the beach is called upon by his parents. But first, a shaved ice.

“The people drove these carts …push carts down the neighbourhoods, by the beaches, by the zoo,” said Khataw, explaining Pakistan’s version of the slushie.

“They buy big blocks of ice, crushing it and putting syrup on it. We used to chow down on real ice, juice, syrup. All different kinds. We were six years old, running around playing cricket. I dreamed about it; one day I’d create something like that.

“So this passion started at age six in Karachi,” said Khataw, who immigrated to the United States at age 19 to attend university in San Diego, where he obtained a business degree.

Thereafter, Khataw said he quickly made his way up to Canada, moving to Richmond close to 30 years ago. Here, he lives nearby his brother and met his wife Naazim, a Richmond High graduate, whose father operated the corner store for several decades.

When Khataw’s father-in-law decided to retire in 1998, Khataw saw an opportunity.

“I wanted to create this drink called the Screamer. It was my passion to introduce to people my ice cream — a home recipe from my father. So I took it to a new level.

“If you drink two cold things, you get brain freeze. And scream! That’s how I created Danny’s Screamer,” explained Khataw.

He claims the drink’s name is trademarked, however spinoffs have popped up here and there in Richmond — a bone of contention with Khataw.

“No one can take Danny’s Screamer!” proclaimed Khataw, who remains open to the idea of returning in a different location in three to five years (although this could very well be the end).

Danny's Market is known to have lineups out the door for Danny's Screamers

In mid-June Danny’s Market will close so Khataw can spend more time with his three sons and one young daughter. He said he chose not to renew his usual five-year lease with the property’s owner. At age 51, he’ll enter into semi-retirement by helping one son with a new construction business.

The opportunity to leave will also give some relief to Naazim and her mother, who both helped transform the corner store into a kitchen and lounge that serves fresh East Indian food and pizzas (and butter chicken poutine, of course).

“She is the one who backed me up and helped me get by for 20 years,” said Khataw, who lives above the store.

For someone who has helped define summer in Richmond, he said this will be his first in 20 years that he can truly enjoy leisurely.

“I haven’t seen a summer. This will be the first time I’ve decided to spend with my family. In the end, you don’t take money with you,” said Khataw.

And there would have been a lot of money to make this summer, like the others.

Khataw said he grosses about $500,000 a year in Screamer sales alone.

“They are my bread and butter,” he said.

The usual clientele are teenagers. If you triangulate McRoberts, Palmer and McNair secondary schools, Danny’s Market falls somewhere in the middle.

“It usually starts in May, June, especially when the school year ends. People order 50 Screamers at a time. The South Arm kids come up, 100 kids lined up for Screamers,” he said.


Winter sales remain brisk as well.

“Even if it’s snowing, they come from Surrey, Langley; they love it,” he said.

“So many people have moved away in the past few years. But every weekend they drive from so far to come here,” he added.

The secret?

Well-lubricated slushie and ice cream machines, as well as elbow grease — the ice cream is made each morning. And Khataw doesn’t skimp on the syrup.

“7-11 gives you more ice. We give juice. The syrup, so juicy, makes the drink amazing,” he explained, noting various flavours such as pina colada, mango and blue raspberry keep people coming back for more.

“If I don’t have mango people will walk out,” said Khataw.

Last chance for that original, mango Danny’s Screamer is June 17.