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By Keaton Larson

This summer, a new addition to the sweet treats scene in San Clemente is serving classic and fresh ice cream.

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream on Camino de los Mares opened in June, and the store has seen long lines and satiated faces so far. The scoop shop offers everything from traditional cones and bowls of ice cream to sundaes, banana splits, ice cream sandwiches, milkshakes, and floats.

“Graham Central Station,” a mix of graham cracker ice cream, graham cracker ripple, and a chocolate-covered honeycomb, is one of its most popular flavors. “Oree-dough,” a combination of Oreo and cookie dough, mint chocolate chip and chocolate peanut butter brownie are other popular items.

It also serves several vegan ice creams, including a rotating fruit flavor and a coconut milk-based chocolate Oree-dough. It is also planning seasonal flavors for the upcoming fall and winter seasons, says Manager Noe Pinedo, including pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake and peppermint.

Each flavor is made in-house by ice cream makers, and each day, the staff may churn out as many as 30 to 40 buckets of ice cream. This process and the quality of the ice cream were among the reasons Keith and Shirlyn Kesler, California natives and longtime residents of Laguna Beach, wanted to open a Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream shop.

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream in San Clemente serves fresh ice cream and sweet treats this summer at its new location on Camino de los Mares. Photo: Keaton Larson

This opening is not their first foray into ice cream, though. The San Clemente location is Keith and Shirlyn’s ninth location in Southern California, the first being in Laguna Niguel, with two others in Orange County and four in San Diego.

“My oldest son lives in San Clemente, right by North Beach,” Keith said, noting his excitement to have a location in San Clemente, a city that has been one of his regular stops for years.

Keith worked in an advertising agency for many years before teaching at California State University, Fullerton as an advertising professor. His experience in the marketing world helped him and his fellow business partners choose an ice cream shop with which to run.

One day, Keith’s brother-in-law tasted some Handel’s Ice Cream that a family member had brought down from the Rancho Cucamonga location, and he urged Keith to try it himself. Several months later, they were submitting their application for a franchise.

“The way people talk about In-N-Out in Southern California is the way people talk about Handel’s,” said Keith. “People rave about it. And I saw that in Handel’s, because we make it fresh every day in every store. And it makes a complete difference.”

Keith recognized the special love customers had for the ice cream and the excitement that came with the Handel’s brand. No amount of money can buy you the loyalty that customers have for this ice cream, Keith said.

“The nice thing about working at an ice cream store is it’s not a hard sell,” said Pinedo, a family friend of the Kesler family who was recently the general manager of the Rancho Santa Margarita location. “Everyone is already happy. We’ve had a very warm reception from all the locals here.”

Pinedo loves managing the San Clemente location. He said it’s hard to find any negatives about managing the store. He can see many regular faces and share in the joy that customers have when ordering a scoop of their favorite flavor.

The location will have its grand opening on Sept. 1 Keith is excited to plan a fun-filled day for the community with giveaways and music from the San Clemente High School band.

Keith hopes to create a place for families and neighbors to come and hang out and forget the cares of the world.

“If you come to Handel’s and spend a half an hour there, it’s like a half an hour of being on vacation,” he said.

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream

610 Camino de los Mares, San Clemente


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