Crowds flock to debut of Portola's new Churn Urban Creamery

Crowds flock to debut of Portola's new Churn Urban CreameryA  long line formed down the block for Churn's grand opening on San Bruno Avenue. | Photos: Meaghan M. Mitchell/Hoodline
Meaghan M. Mitchell
Published on July 31, 2019

Expanding to a brick-and-mortar was not top-of-mind for Rika Sunga-Kwan, owner of pop-up ice-cream cart Churn Urban Creamery

But after touring the Portola District with her husband Chris, Sunga-Kwan had a change of heart. The glowing marquee of the historic Avenue Theater, which adjoins her new space, gave her the vision of bringing something tasty to the neighborhood. 

"I decided to expand because my priorities have changed," she said. "Now, I am thinking long-term."

After two years of planning, Churn made its debut at 2646 San Bruno Ave. on Saturday, scooping up "farm-fresh" dairy and non-dairy ice cream in flavors like baklava, lemon thyme and peach cobbler. 

Rika Sunga-Kwan with husband Chris and their son.

"I didn't expect so many people to show up," Kwan said of the opening-day event, which drew lines down the block. Mayor London Breed, Supervisor Hillary Ronen and representatives from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development were among those in attendance. 

"Churn is going to be amazing for this community," Mayor Breed said in a speech at the opening event.

Ronen agreed, noting that family-owned small businesses like Churn are "what San Francisco is all about."

Sunga-Kwan gives Mayor Breed a tour and samples.

Sunga-Kwan, whose family hails from the Philippines, moved to San Francisco at age 9. A graduate of Lowell High School, she now resides in the Outer Sunset, where Churn's pop-ups got their start in 2016. 

In fact, the Outer Sunset is essential to Churn's business: she grows ingredients for many of the shop's flavors in her 1,500-square-foot backyard garden, which she's dubbed Beach Cottage Urban Farm.

"I like to get my hands dirty," she explained. 

Churn staff pass out samples to customers. 

Given Sunga-Kwan's agricultural bent, she'll likely be right at home in the Portola, which is historically known as the city's "garden district," and once boasted fields of commercial floral greenhouses.

Churn's arrival is part of a larger effort to bring commercial vitality back to the neighborhood. Brewpub Ferment Drink Repeat and an outpost of Four Barrel Coffee have also opened down the block.

The glowing Avenue Theater marquee that attracted Sunga-Kwan was recently restored with the help of city funds, though the interior of the theater remains unusable.

Churn is now open from 1-7 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, with the potential for expanded hours as the business grows. For more information, visit their website