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Bay Area Ice Cream Shops Gear Up for Summer Heat Wave

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An employee scoops gelato in an ice cream shop.
Rebecca Gish, an employee at Hila Gelato Caffè on the western edge of the Mission District, scoops Sicilian-style gelato on June 20, 2024.  (Ezra David Romero/KQED)

Lilly Pheng loves serving fudge splits piled high with sliced bananas, vanilla ice cream and thick chocolate fudge, especially when a heat wave hits.

Temperatures are expected to soar again this weekend. Pheng, the shop’s owner for more than two decades, is looking forward to it because just a couple of hot days boosts traffic to Loard’s Ice Cream in Livermore by around 30%, she said.

“Heat waves bring in customers from toddlers to 100-year-olds,” Pheng said. “A lick of ice cream soothes the soul. It just cools them down.”


The National Weather Service forecasts triple-digit temperatures for the Livermore area during the second heat wave of the year and the first of summer. Meteorologists expect the heat wave to peak on Saturday with temperatures above 100 degrees in northern Napa and Sonoma counties and inland areas in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Oakland could reach the mid-80s, San José could reach the low 90s and San Francisco could reach the high 70s.

With the heat wave approaching, Pheng is preparing for the crowds. She’s already arranging additional staff, including her daughter, who recently graduated from university, to cater to the expected customer surge.

Bay Area ice cream and gelato shops are preparing for long lines of customers during the summer’s first heat wave. (Ezra David Romero/KQED)

She expects a line of people trailing out of the pink and white old-timey shop for scoops of ice cream, old-fashioned sodas, boba and sundaes.

“We serve our sundaes in glasses, which brings customers memories of the past,” she said. “I love working here. Every day I go into the ice cream shop, it’s not called work.”

Even though forecasters don’t expect temperatures to be as high in San Francisco as in Livermore, ice cream shops there are preparing for a barrage of customers this weekend at temperatures near 80 degrees.

Hila Gelato Caffè in San Francisco’s Mission District makes many flavors, including pistachio, almond and stracciatella, all nestled in individual domed gelato machines. (Ezra David Romero/KQED)

For Ilary Biondo, who owns Hila Gelato Caffè on the western edge of the Mission District, the heat wave is great economically for her Sicilian-style gelato shop, which she opened just over a year ago.

But as the afternoon sun shines through big glass windows, the business heats up. During a heat wave, she said her freezers and refrigerators suffer and could potentially break.

“It’s funny that in our field, we complain that they always break at the wrong time when it’s hot with a line of people,” she said in an email.

That’s why Biondo recently changed machines to a style that can withstand equipment failures. She makes every flavor — pistachio, almond, stracciatella, etc. — in a domed individual gelato machine, each with its own compressor, so if one breaks, all the other flavors will still be available.

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