Ice cream stores melting under economic pressure


Grayson Salomon ’22

Mitchell’s Ice Cream continues to scoop out delicious frozen desserts.

Andrei Lynch '22, Staff Reporter

Summer is here and in anticipation of the hot summer days, unless you live in San Francisco,  people are starting to think about cooling off with a delicious scoop of ice cream.

There’s bad news for those planning to go to Shaws, an ice cream parlor in West Portal. Shaws closed in February after its 89 year reign. The store was located at 122 West Portal.

Douglas Shaw, the founder of Shaws, opened the store in 1931 under the name “Karamel Korn.”  Shaw would eventually open 40 stores all over the Bay Area. The West Portal Shaws was the last remaining one.

According to San Francisco Eater, “SFist commenters say that in recent years, Shaws has ‘been experiencing a slow and painful demise,’ with empty shelves and stock that was less than fresh. But now, the shop is nearly empty, its phone number is disconnected, and a ‘for rent’ sign is on the door.”


Shaws was a hotspot for ice cream enthusiasts, and also served truffles, fudge, and amazing milkshakes. Shaws was an amazing place, and customers clearly remember the feeling of just stepping into the shop.

Susan Sutton, English and journalism teacher said,  “It always smelled sweet! It was like I found a Golden Ticket and was stepping into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.”

Shaws in West Portal recently closed after 89 years. (Ian Martin ’20 )

Ice cream parlors have come and gone in the Bay Area. Among the many favorites that have left are Baskin Robbins, which had many stores in San Francisco, including ones in West Portal and the Excelsior. Those stores are also gone, with the only Baskin Robbins in the area being the one in Daly City’s Westlake.

Former Excelsior Baskin Robbins employee and Riordan alumnus Ernesto Castillo ’87 said, “It was my first real job when I was a junior at Riordan. I learned a lot about responsibility and as you might imagine, a lot about ice cream and the various flavors.”

While these are gone, there are others that remain strong like St. Francis Fountain (formerly St. Francis Creamery) in the Mission, open since 1918.

Recently however, Peter Hood, the owner, stated that the parlor may close indefinitely because of unfair treatment of small businesses in this City.

This map includes several popular ice cream stores in San Francisco that are still up and running. You can view the map and read the descriptions of each location by clicking on this graphic (above). Each marked location is a different ice cream store in San Francisco.

According to SF Gate, Hood said, “We were already undergoing an extinction level event for small businesses, first in metropolitan areas, and spreading out across California,” and also stated  “We could survive a pandemic. The deeper question is why? Why even try in a city that has been actively driving small businesses out of business for over a decade?”


When you walk into St. Francis it looks like “something out of the 1950s” according to Armando Castillo, Spanish teacher. He also stated that he liked St. Francis because of “the people that worked there. They are friendly and nice, and of course for the ice cream.”

Others include Smitten, a popular place on Valencia Streeet which originally opened in 2007. Smitten’s website states, “We started by inventing our own ice cream machine — the only one of its kind that can churn the freshest, creamiest scoop right in front of you in 90 seconds.Then we made sure our ingredients are just as fresh.”

St. Francis Fountain is the oldest ice cream store in San Francisco. (Christian Ramirez Cortes ’22 )

Mitchell’s, a family business on San Jose Avenue, not too far from Riordan, has been open since 1953, and lines down the street are an everyday occurrence, and according to Castillo, this happens  “because it is so good.”

Ghirardelli was founded in 1852 in San Francisco and has stores located all over the US. The store is known for its chocolate, but also has ice cream. The store is famous worldwide.

Ice cream parlors struggle to keep up with the availability of buying ice cream in major markets, so Mitchell’s makes its products available in local stores. Mitchell’s is currently open for front door service.

During the shelter-in-place because of the coronavirus, a Mitchell’s employee stated, “Ice cream is more popular than ever now since we are in a crisis and people love to take comfort in a bowl of refreshing ice cream.  There is nothing like a little sweetness to calm the nerves.”

Ice cream is a beloved treat for any age, and can turn a bad day into a good day.

Although many stores have closed, many remain because people love ice cream. Jalen Woods ’22  said, “It’s a nice cold treat on a hot day, or even a cold day, it doesn’t matter.”