On a sunny summer day Meg Hilgartner, dressed in all black except for neon blue and pink shoes, was dispensing soft-serve at her freshly opened Twirl & Dip location. The ice creamery is new to Potrero Hill, but Meg Hilgartner and her business partner, Siri Skelton, aren’t new to the business.
Hilgartner has worked as a high school teacher and in the restaurant business. About a half-decade ago she felt that the organic soft-serve sector was an untapped market. Although she had experience working with food, she’d never created a business of her own. She bought a used soft-serve machine, and began experimenting with various recipes and flavors in her home. Soon Hilgartner was confident enough to put her product in the hands of customers. But she couldn’t afford to rent a space and lacked investors to back her up.
The answer came in the form of a truck; a used vendor’s truck that Hilgartner bought in Las Vegas. She drove the vehicle home and retrofitted it to accommodate soft-serve service. Twirl and Dip was born.
Hilgartner stationed the Twirl and Dip truck on Martin Luther King Drive, near the De Young museum. It was successful; Hilgartner plans to renew her permit to keep it operating at the same location. In the meantime, she’s excited to have opened up a stationary location near her Hill home.
“I’ve lived in Portrero for 12 years,” said Hilgartner. “Working the park was fun, but now it’s going to be nice to stay on the sunny side.” Hilgartner also looks forward to seeing neighbors come to her shop, rather than the stream of tourists who are her customers in Golden Gate Park.
The store occupies 400 square feet of a corner of the still under construction Onyx building, located on 17th Street, between De Haro and Carolina. The building was designed for mixed use, with residences on the top floor, offices in the middle, and commercial spaces on the ground level.
“We were really lucky to find this spot,” Hilgartner noted. Originally, the space that has become Twirl and Dip was going to be used for storage. When Hilgartner discovered that a new building on the Hill would include an unused ground floor commercial space – just large enough to fit two soft-serve machines, an ice cream freezer, and a small kitchen – she seized the opportunity.
Twirl and Dip’s signature item is chocolate or vanilla soft-serve in a homemade waffle cone, dipped in Tcho 60 percent cacao chocolate. If you’ve never tried one before, today is the day to do so. Seriously, it’s too good to wait for tomorrow. Beyond chocolate and vanilla, Twirl and Dip regularly offers one or more seasonal flavors, such as ginger, strawberry, or lemon thyme, made with fresh, organic produce procured from the Mission Bay farmer’s market. Also on the menu are Mitchell’s ice cream, fresh fruit popsicles, sundaes, and an assortment of homemade candies.
Hilgartner plans to hire a few hands to help her run her place. Hill residents looking for a job in the kitchen or at the register are encouraged to stop by.
Store hours are Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 8:30 p.m.