Free Ice Cream in Pittsburgh’s Strip District


In 1936, during the great Pittsburgh flood, a young man named Raymond Klayvon got trapped in his parents’ drug store, only managing to escape because he climbed on top of a phone booth and out a high window. Current store owners Jacob and Desiree Hanchar recently commemorated the event by giving out over a thousand free “Luck of the Irish” milkshakes.

The next opportunity to get some free ice cream is on the third Sunday in July—this year, July 17th—when Klavon’s celebrates National Ice Cream Day. Owner Jacob Hanchar is tight-lipped about what this year’s celebration might include, though last year’s event saw free samples and experimental flavors like Pittsburgh Popcorn.

The building that houses Klayvons was built in 1885 by Henry Clay Frick, who sold it to James and Mary Klavon in 1923. In 1945, the Klayvons added a bar to the building and began serving ice cream. They were druggists, and at the time ice cream which was believed to help the stomach absorb medicine. The Klavons ran the building drug store and ice cream parlor until 1979, when it was boarded up. Still, it remained in the Klavon family until 2013, when James’ and Mary’s grandson, Raymond Klavon Jr, passed away.

IMG_4924At that time, Jacob and Desiree Hanchar were looking for a kid-friendly business opportunity. Two of their children were in school, and with a third just delivered, Desiree was worried that she’d be stuck at home. Jacob’s one stipulation was that the business came with a building, and when he and Desiree found the old drug store, they knew they’d found their opportunity.

Today, almost everything in Klayvon’s Ice Cream is original. This includes the bar behind which Klayvon employees craft decadent sundaes, the terrazzo marble floors, lights shaped like the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, and the display cases, which still hold old drugs, verified as inactive by Pitt pharmaceutical students.

For the first two years of business, Jacob—a graduate of Penn State—got his ice cream from the Penn State Berkey Creamery, the largest university creamery in the country. In 2015, he began taking the Penn State Ice Cream Course, the same one taken by Ben and Jerry, and in early 2016 he got a license to start producing his own products.

Today, Jacob and Desiree produce almost all of their own ice cream, with options like butter pecan, bittersweet mint, and fan-favorite chocolate chip cookie dough. Because they don’t use preservatives, the ice cream is always fresh, and they never hold more than a week of inventory. Scoops cost $2.75 for a “wee,” $4 for a regular, and $4.85 for a large.

Also popular are the sundaes, which run $4.75 for a wee and $5.75 for a regular, and the flavored whipped creams. For those not interested in ice cream, Klayvon’s also serves espresso drinks, which they make on a machine that Jacob bought from Pittsburgh’s favorite gourmet coffee roaster, Commonplace Coffee.

For more information, visit Klayvon’s Ice Cream online.