The “It’s-It”: A San Francisco Tradition

Last night I was thinking about things that truly stand out as a San Francisco tradition and one thing came to mind, the It’s It. If you grew up in San Francisco you know this lovely treat of vanilla ice cream smashed between two oatmeal cookies and dipped in dark chocolate. It gave you everything when you had a craving for sweets.The It’s It has changed a bit over the years adding mint, cappucino and chocolate ice cream to replace the original vanilla as well as adding new products to riff on the original, but if you want the original you have get it with vanilla ice cream.

While the product was started by George Whitney, it finally has passed to Shamieh brothers who moved the factory to Burlingame, so while it is still very closely associated with San Francisco, it unfortunately, ain’t made here anymore, but at least it’s made about 20 minutes away from San Francisco so that’s better than finding out that they’re made in China now.

I went to their web site to find out more about the creation of this wonderful little tidbit that was a part of every San Franciscan child’s heart:

In 1928, George Whitney began what is now a San Francisco tradition. He placed a scoop of vanilla ice cream between two large old-fashioned oatmeal cookies and then dipped the sandwich into dark chocolate. On that very day, the It’s It Ice Cream Sandwich was born. George Whitney sold the It’s It exclusively in San Francisco’s Playland-at-the-Beach for over four decades.

Many generations have savored the It’s It. Throughout the years, the company has gone through many changes yet the product remains the same as it did in 1928. Maybe that’s why It’s It was named “The official food of San Francisco.”

When Playland was demolished in the early 1970’s, the It’s It ceased to exist. Times were grim. San Franciscans had one thing in common; they all missed their It’s It. Then, in 1974, It’s It was reborn. This time It’s It were hand made in a small shop in San Francisco and were sold mainly to mom and pop stores. When the shop became too small to quench San Francisco’s appetite for the It’s It, the company relocated into a larger facility in 1978, relocation just minutes away from the San Francisco Airport.

In the 1980’s, the demand for It’s It spread outside of the Bay Area and throughout California. Soon after, It’s It were distributed and were available in over 15 states. In the early 1990’s, It’s It Ice Cream Co. expanded nearly two-fold when it moved into a new office and dry goods warehouse across the street from its manufacturing facility.

I remember the trips my Mom and I would make down to Playland at the beach for It’s Its, but that was as close to Playland I ever got to go because according to her the place was filled with nothing but hoodlums. I did miss it a bit when Playland closed, but that was only a couple of years after it’s closing day which was Labor Day weekend 1972, the only time I actually got to go to Playland. Just a little side note, George Whitney who started the It’s It was the general manager of Playland from 1926 until his death in 1958.

While they are no longer hand dipped because that would be ridiculous for a company that now has to turn out about a million of these things a week to all the places outside of San Francisco, they still pretty much taste the same as they did. Their web site has a video tour of their factory. I think George Whitney would be proud to see he’s left something behind that’s only gotten bigger over the years.

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2 Replies to “The “It’s-It”: A San Francisco Tradition”

  1. My mom and her
    friend, Priscilla, were the two who, after Playland at the Beach
    closed, asked the It’s-It owner if they could sell the ice cream in
    stores. Until then, It’s-Its were no longer available to the public once
    Playland closed.

    My father made an It’s-It booth, complete
    with his own original oil painting of an It’s-It ice cream, and my mom
    and Priscilla sold them all over the city. We used to go to the Cliff
    House on weekends, set up the booth and sell them there.

    Sadly, mom and Priscilla could not come up with the money to buy It’s-It from the original owner.

    Herb Caen even wrote a column about it, and called them “The It’s-It
    Girls.” I would love to find that column. I tried to research a bit, and
    found nothing.

    P.S. They were WAY better than they are today:
    The creamiest vanilla ice cream between two chewy oatmeal cookies,
    dunked in high quality chocolate. Today, they don’t have the same
    quality.

  2. Thanks for the update. I know they aren’t the same anymore. I suppose if you let one sit out in the hot sun they wouldn’t melt like a Walmart ice cream sandwich either. Last time I had one I couldn’t taste the vanilla in the ice cream and the ice cream, well, didn’t taste much like ice cream. 🙂

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