That is Pittsburgh’s oldest ice cream parlor scoop

July is National Ice Cream Month, so I thought it was a good place to introduce you to Pittsburgh’s oldest and most beloved ice cream shop. Clavon ice cream parlor.. This Pittsburgh favorite has been scooping up sweet treats in the Strip since 1923.

📜 We have been offering sweets since 1923

Original Klavon’s Pharmacy (📸: Photo courtesy of Jacob Hanchar)

Go back to the beginning of the building Mary Schenley (yes, like Schenley Park) built the building as her office in 1885. When the wealthy philanthropist died in 1903, the building fell into her trust.

James Klavon, the former owner of Klavon’s, purchased the building from a trust after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh’s pharmacology program. James and his wife Mary opened Clavon’s ice cream parlor in 1923 as both a local pharmacist store and a soda fountain. As a pharmacist, James provided prescriptions and medical assistance, and Mary handed out penny candies at the Soda Fountain. The pair worked every day except Sunday.

To date, Klavon’s is known for its old-fashioned look. Featuring tin ceilings, cola cap bar stools, original marble countertops and the famous wooden phone booth, the store is reminiscent of the day it opened in 1923.

The Clavon store was popular in the neighborhood and violated the law in 1933. During Prohibition, James made pirated copies for some time, resulting in police raids on the store. Ray Klavon Jr.according to Old article by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, James was selling quite a bit of cough syrup. When police came to investigate, James claimed that soot from industrial businesses affected the lungs of the community. And that was the end of the conversation.

Another notable story and landmark of the store is how the waterline above the phone booth represents the flood of St. Patrick’s Day in 1936. As the story went on, Raymond, the only child of James and Mary, entered the store early that day to move inventory and equipment from the basement to the ground floor in preparation for the spring thaw with the help of his cousin. When the spring thaw began, it was common for the basement to enter about a foot of water. Especially that year, it was flooded with much more water than usual and was much faster. The floods drove Raymond and his cousin upstairs, especially above the phone booth. When the rowing boat arrived, they crawled through the window and eventually saved their lives. Meanwhile, James was stuck on the top floor during the flood and waited until it was late.

The remains of the flood are adorned and remembered with this cute mural (📸: Zoey Angelucci)

Raymond grew up on the Strip and married a girl next door. He became a doctor and often met many patients in the store. The pair had eight children and eventually moved to Bloomfield, where Ray began medical practice. According to the report, children often visited grandparents and ice cream shops for days at a time. Pittsburgh Post Gazette..

In 1979, Clavon’s ice cream parlor closed the door. James died in January of that year. Between his death and the collapsing steel industry, the best business option was to close the store.

In 1999, Clavon’s oldest grandson, Ray Jr., decided to reopen the store after teaching art at Mount Oliver. With the help of their families, they returned the store to a full-service ice cream parlor.

“When he (Ray Jr.) reopened the place, it was like a time capsule,” said Jacob Hancher, the current owner of Clavon. “There was still a cup that just sat on the table … he didn’t refurbish it. He basically cleaned it and polished it a bit.”

In 2013, Ray Jr. died of lung cancer, forcing the ice cream parlor to close the door again and look for potential buyers.

🍦 Ice cream heritage

Rick Sebak enjoying vanilla ice cream cones (📸: Zoey Angelucci)

Every Pittsburgh seems to have a story about this Pittsburgh treasure, Includes WQED Producer and Pittsburgh Iconic Sebak. In 1996, Rick and WQED produced a documentary featuring the Stip district called the “Strip Show.” Ray Clavon insisted on showing off, despite boarding a family store before reopening. When Ray reopened the shop in 1999, he called Rick to introduce the reopened parlor in the extra segment of the “strip show” that can be seen on this WQED. documentary..

As a lifelong friend of business, one of Rick’s favorite memories and Clavon’s story didn’t really happen in the parlor. In 2018, Rick fell and ruptured the quadriceps tendon. He was hospitalized for 7 weeks. The current owner, Jacob Hancher, brought Rick two banana splits to help sweeten things in the hospital.

Like Rick and most other Pittsburgh, I’ve been to Clavon since I was young. I started pointe ballet class when I was 13 years old. My family and I went to the Dancers Pointe Dance Apparel Shop, right next to Clavons, and bought pointe shoes. We found this ice cream treasure and stopped on every trip. I remember Ray hearing about floods and stories in stores over the last few years.

My sister Audrey and I enjoy a sweet treat in Clavon around 2011 (📸: Zoe Angelich)

As two Clavon fans, Rick and I met Clavon and shared our favorite flavors, vanilla for him and mint chocolate chips for me. We talked for quite some time and talked about the beauty of the store.

“I think it’s mostly just the feel of that time capsule [makes it so special]”Rick told me. “The fact that you are here and you are in another era. And they are not changing things.”

🍨 Today’s scoop

The neon sign outside Klavon’s was added by Ray Jr. (📸: Photo courtesy of Jacob Hanchar)

In 2011, Ray Jr. was still running the store, Jacob Hancher, his wife Designy, and their two children (at the time) discovered and fell in love with Clavon’s ice cream parlor.

Two years later, the couple heard about the closure and learned that they had to preserve Pittsburgh’s treasure. Design was interested in a child-friendly business because she was worried that she would become a housewife who had nothing to do. Currently, the hunter has six children, so they are filling their hands with sticky fingers, and they wouldn’t have it otherwise.

Jacob Hancher was born in Johnstown and raised in Ebensburg. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Pennsylvania State University and then a degree in neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles. Eventually, he returned to Pittsburgh to earn an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and was referred to the University of Clavon.

Hanchers purchased the store in 2013 and assigned a management team. They have started offering Pennsylvania State Ice Cream. Pennsylvania State Ice Cream has enthusiastic support locally and throughout the state.

“That is, there is a legend that you can only get Pennsylvania State University ice cream if you are at Pennsylvania State University,” Jacob said. “That’s not true. You can. You just have to go pick it up on a pallet. Take a forklift, put it in a refrigerated truck and take it down. After a while, it’s very exorbitant. That’s why we’re just starting to make it ourselves. We’ve got food production certification. We’ve been making our own ice cream since 2015. ”

Hancher did his best to keep the place original. When they bought it, there was a developer who planned to uproot everything. Jacob recognized the store as a Pittsburgh treasure and quickly realized that it wasn’t an option. Due to their acquisition, they added a new paint coat, and that was it.

Recently, Klavon’s has gained national media attention by paying workers $ 15 an hour to address the post-pandemic staffing shortage. In response, they received a lot of applications and great worker morale. Jacob’s thinking process behind this was to find a solution to the shortage, but it was also to fight the low minimum wage of $ 7.25 per hour. The market, which means most restaurants, already pays employees $ 12 to $ 13 per hour.

Clavon staff serving ice cream to Rick (📸: Zoe Angelich)

“What I tell Congressmen is that we need to get this done completely,” Jacob said. “I hate having to revisit it every 10 years, so what they should have done at $ 7.25 almost 15 years ago is to tie it to the CPI. Then it will catch up with inflation. “

Hancher is doing his best to protect the heritage of Clavon. They plan to continue expanding the Clavon brand by licensing what is probably called the White Label (and you can have a Clavon branded ice cream distributor). Jacob explained that it was the logical next step for the brand. The franchise is optional, but he doesn’t find the idea appealing because the store is so unique. They can’t open five stores like it, or it will dilute history.

“I think Clavon is a public good,” Jacob said. “For me, ice cream doesn’t have much money, so it’s not about trying to make money. Most places have been destroyed, so it’s about going to places of memory and reminding people of fragments of the past. “

NS zoeyangelucci

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