Hype-worthy gourmet gelateria An’s is celebrating sweet success with a soon-to-be third San Diego location.
Since the company’s 2018 inception, each shop has cleverly taken on the identity of the former business or neighborhood its inhabited. The original North Park location – An’s Dry Cleaning – serves its fabric-named creations on ironing board-shaped tables that sit under art deco-inspired fluorescent light displays. An’s Hatmakers in Del Mar pays homage to the nearby racetrack’s rich history. Now, a new spot has been scooped up in Ocean Beach.
Launching a New Location
OB’s longstanding anti-establishment, hyperlocal culture is what attracted Co-Founder Kris Warren to the area. “Wherever we have an An’s, it should feel like that neighborhood’s gelato shop. It shouldn’t be a brand that’s rubberstamped. Maybe there’s not a lot of sex appeal in that but we live here and think this should be for the locals in the community,” he said.
The company secured a location at 1861 Bacon Street, a block away from the beach and Newport Avenue, near Raglan Public House and La Doña Mexican restaurant. Warren said the former businesses in that space were centered around electronics, so the plan is to build the shop’s name and design around that theme. He was careful not to share too much. “We have some internal ideas that we’re toying with.”
While the gelateria chain expands, it continues to rake in awards. The cherry on top came this July when An’s was named the 2nd best ice cream shop in America, according to a USA Today Poll. “Overnight, we had a line waiting for us to open. At night, it still gets crazy. [We’d] come by late – at 10 o’clock at night – and we’d get waters and gelatos for the customers who were waiting in line, sometimes for 90 minutes.”
An’s can add its new ranking to its other A-list recognitions, like being named by Forbes as one of the top five reasons to visit San Diego, or one of the most unique ice cream shops in the U.S., according to Lonely Planet.
A Sweet Story
The story of its evolution is steeped in travel and friendship. After Warren graduated from UC San Diego in 2006, he took off for Spain to try his hand at living abroad, where a serendipitous series of events unfolded. Fully soaking in his new European lifestyle, Warren frequented a gelato shop where he befriended employee David Aguilera. The two became drinking buddies and stayed in touch. Warren returned to San Diego and learned the ropes of running a business through his asset management job, while Aguilera rose through the ranks in the artisanal gelato world. “My boss was a chemist, so he started teaching me how to make gelato from scratch,” he shared. In what seemed like a dream job, he morphed into a gelato consultant, traveling the world to share his expertise. “It’s a very weird niche area that not a lot of people know,” he added.
Aguilera came to visit Warren in San Diego, where he was introduced to friends Travis Bailey and Jimmy Blalock, both attorneys and fellow founders and owners. A night out filled with libations bore the idea to open a local gelato shop. By the way, all of them still work full-time at their corporate jobs.
“People say that you shouldn’t go into business with good friends. I would say it’s been more of an asset for us than a liability,” Warren said. “The four of us talk almost every day.”
All four founders went in on self-funding the project before taking on a couple of small Banner Bank SBA loans. Since then, the returns have fueled operations.
Aguilera took the lead on developing flavors. “I remember looking in the back of his car and it was filled with, like, 75 watermelons. He’d bring them in the shop where he’d cut them and juice himself to make all the gelato,” Warren said.
He now has more than 40 employees to lend a hand, but he and the other owners put equal weight into ensuring the help is reciprocated. “I think that the top of your pyramid should be your staff and if you treat them well, they’ll treat customers well. They’re a priority. Anytime we have extra money, we give it to them through bonuses or raises. We try to attract the best talent we can. We rely on them,” Warren added.
Looking far into the future, a possible fourth location is on the horizon – somewhere in North County. Beyond that, “I think the goal for us is to bring our shops to cities that are known for their culinary prowess like New York, Chicago or Seattle,” he added. “Right now, we’re staying really focused on trying to provide the best experience for everyone. This is how all our decisions are made.”
era, Travis Bailey, Kris Warren & Jimmy Blalock
SHOPS: North Park & Del Mar
NOTABLE: An’s was named in a 2023 USA Today Poll as America’s 2nd best ice cream shop.