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Churn Urban Creamery Plans Permanent Space for Garden-Fresh Flavors

The Outer Sunset pop-up will take root in the Portola

Rica’s husband Chris Kwan scoops ice cream at Churn
Chris Koh

Rica Sunga-Kwan started her ice cream operation Churn Urban Creamery two years ago in the Outer Sunset, the neighborhood where she grew up. But after trekking her ice cream cart across the city for popups and deliveries to show off flavors made with ingredients from her garden, Sunga-Kwan has found a permanent space for Churn in the Portola District, an area appropriately known as San Francisco’s Garden District in honor of its rich agricultural history.

Churn will take root at 2646 San Bruno Avenue, a long vacant space that was once a candy store and most recently Johnson’s Barbecue, which closed in 2007. That’s Inside the Avenue Theater, whose historic neon sign was recently restored with city investment funds, in part to attract tenants.

Portola’s Avenue Theatre
Christopher Michel/Flickr

“It’s a fantastic space,” Sunga-Kwan tells Eater SF, but “everything has to be updated. All I have to work with are a ceiling and walls.” She hopes to start construction by the end of January with a goal of opening in late spring.

Churn makes about 10 base flavors, many of them — like rosemary olive oil, lemon thyme, and fresh mint chip stracciatella — with ingredients from Sunga-Kwan’s garden plot, Beach Cottage Urban Farm, in the Outer Sunset. On top of those, Churn typically serves two seasonal flavors at a time, most recently squash and pumpkin. Sunga-Kwan also makes non-dairy flavors: “35 percent is vegan, just because I know there’s a huge demand for vegan, no-nut, no-gluten ice cream,” she explains.

Rica Sunga-Kwan makes a matcha cone
Chris Koh

While Sunga-Kwan’s heart, and her home, are still in the Outer Sunset, she’s keen on setting up shop in the Portola. “I like the fact that it’s still filled with locals,” she says, “and being a native San Franciscan, that’s important to me.”