The Mitchell family moved to San Francisco from New York in 1865 and started a small dairy farm in the hills above what is now Noe Valley. Edward Mitchell ran the farm until his untimely death in the late 1890’s, leaving his wife with eight young children to raise on her own. She leased out the land to another farmer and in 1913 had the apartment building that now houses Mitchell’s Ice Cream built on the corner of 29th Street and San Jose Avenue.
In 1947, the City of San Francisco decided to widen San Jose Avenue and wanted to tear down the apartment building to make room for the wider street. The Mitchells fought to save the building and the City agreed to lift it up and turn it sideways. The liquor store that was located on the first floor of the building closed because of this project and the storefront sat empty for several years after the building was turned. In 1952, brothers Larry and Jack Mitchell decided to take advantage of the empty storefront and start their own business. They had always had a passion for ice cream, so they turned the space into an ice cream parlor.
Larry was 24 years old and Jack was 34 when they started their venture. They designed and built the store, walk-in freezer, manufacturing room, etc. themselves in their spare time, along with help from their father and their two brothers-in-law. When the store was finished, they received three days of training on ice cream making from Dairy Made Creamery and then they were on their own! Along with making ice cream and running the shop, Larry was also a proud San Francisco firefighter for 30 years.
Mitchell’s Ice Cream opened for business on June 6, 1953. Larry and Jack Mitchell’s goal was to make the very best ice cream in San Francisco. The Mitchells started out with nineteen flavors; all made with 16% butterfat cream and superior ingredients. They continued to add flavors as their store became more popular and in the early 1960’s they were the first to introduce Mango ice cream to the Bay Area. Mango quickly became (and remains to this day) their number one seller. As the neighborhood changed and became more diverse, they increased the number of tropical flavors that they manufactured by importing a variety of exotic fruit from the Philippines.
In 1982 Jack retired, but Mitchell’s is still owned by Larry Mitchell and his wife, Claire. Two of their children, Brian and Linda, manage the day-to-day operations of the store. Their ice cream is still made fresh in the shop every day, using a 10-gallon Emery Thompson batch freezer. They feature 40 flavors daily and still use 16% butterfat in all of their ice cream, along with the finest ingredients from local sources, from across the country and from around the world. Their commitment to making the best super premium ice cream and providing the best service to their customers is why Mitchell’s has been a treasured San Francisco landmark for more than 60 years.