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Streetwise: A Sweet Tooth in the Western Neighborhoods

by Frank Dunnigan
June 2024

Frank Dunnigan, WNP member and columnist. -
Local residents who possess a sweet tooth have never had to look too far in the western neighborhoods to satisfy their cravings. A wide variety of nearby bakeries, ice cream shops, and candy counters dot the local landscape. Let’s take a look back to some of these mostly long-gone spots.

Last days of Sugar Bowl Bakery at Balboa Street near 38th Avenue, 2005 - WNP Collection.
The Sugar Bowl Bakery was a Balboa Street fixture, adjacent to the Balboa Theatre for decades. It closed in 2005 and a soup restaurant opened in its place. Many of Sugar Bowl’s sweet treats are now produced commercially and are available in grocery stores.

Interior of the Whitney Brothers Pie Shop on Great Highway, 1930s - Laurie Hollings Photo Album / James R. Smith Collection.
Here’s a kitchen scene at Whitney Brothers Pie Shop on Great Highway in the 1930s. The bakery sold pies, cakes, and turnovers until the final days of Playland in 1972, along with fountain items such as milkshakes, malted milks, and ice cream sundaes.

View northeast on West Portal near Ulloa, September 1949 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
Adeline Bake Shop, owned by the Lembo Family, was a popular chain with multiple San Francisco locations until the 1980s. Here is the original one on West Portal Avenue in 1949.

Baronial Bakery, circa 1954 - Courtesy of Cathy Nabbefeld Crain.
Baronial Bakery, shown here in 1954, was a popular bakery at 1033 Taraval Street until owners Wilma & Willie Nabbefeld retired in the early 1970s. Read more in the July 2014 Streetwise.

Charles and Bernice Lassiter working at Polly Ann Ice Cream, 1959 - Courtesy of Bernice Lassiter.
Charles and Bernice Lassiter of Noriega Street’s Polly Ann Ice Cream in 1959 – a neighborhood institution that began in 1955 and continues in business to this day near its original location. Read more about Polly Ann Ice Cream on our website our check out our SF West History Minute.

Shaw's Ice Cream on West Portal Avenue, 1940 - Courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
Shaw’s, founded by Douglas Shaw in 1931, grew from this small West Portal storefront to a chain of 59 candy and ice cream shops by the 1960s, when the headquarters relocated to El Camino Real in Millbrae. After years of growth, the chain slowly began shrinking and the Millbrae location, among the firm’s last shops, closed for good in 2011, leaving only the original West Portal location. Covid was about to put an end to the business entirely in early 2020, but then Diana Zogaric and her family took over the West Portal store and gave Shaw’s a fresh lease on life. Read more about Shaw’s great comeback.

Joe's Ice Cream, date unknown.
Family-run Joe’s Ice Cream opened on Geary Boulevard in the Richmond District in 1959. Long a popular spot with nearby residents, Joe’s has acquired a following from people living in other neighborhoods, too. In May 2010, the shop relocated to a new spot across the street from its original home of 50+ years. Read the history of Joe Politz and his ice cream shop.

19th Avenue and Geary Boulevard, 1951 - Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library, Assessor's Negative Collection.
A See’s Candies shop along Geary Boulevard in 1951. In the 1950s, See’s shops dotted the landscape, with other west side store locations along Clement, Irving, West Portal, and inside the then-new Stonestown Mall. More recently, this corner location has been home to a bank for more than 15 years.

Restaurants facing Great Highway, Playland at the Beach, circa 1955 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
The birthplace of IT’S-IT, San Francisco’s classic chocolate-dipped ice cream sandwich, along Great Highway in 1955. Read the history of IT’S-IT on their website.

Interior of Jeanne Claire's Cafe at 1408 Taraval near 24th Avenue, 1990s - Photo by S. Todd Rogers; Richmond Review Newspaper Collection / Courtesy of Paul Kozakiewicz, Richmond Review.
Jeanne Claire’s was a popular neighborhood café at 24th and Taraval in the 1990s, offering a variety of light fare and desserts.

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