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PIPELINE:Old school ice shop stays cool

IN THE

July 04, 2007|By CHRIS EPTING

I received a lot of positive feedback in regards to last week's piece on the efforts underway to get rid of Dog Beach.

I have since heard from a City Council member insisting that Dog Beach is "not in play." That's good news.

On another topic, it is well below freezing and I'm starting to shiver. Ice is piled over my head and my breath is coming out in thick, cold puffs. Just an average day in Huntington Beach, right? It is if you're standing in the freezer at Brewster's Ice on 6th Street, just off Main, where I had the pleasure of visiting one recent, balmy morning.

Fourth of July is one of the busiest times of the year here at one of the oldest businesses in town (it's actually the oldest owned by the original proprietors), but Mike Costello still took some time to talk to me in between hauling blocks of ice off a delivery truck. He's worked here for 22 years, and he's married to Ellen Brewster whose dad started this cool operation back in 1945.

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In this hi-tech, gadget-obsessed era, Brewster's Ice may be the most refreshingly low-tech spot in California. The funky old blue and white rectangular building that houses it began life as an Army-issue meat locker down on the beach during World War II (it stored the food that was used to feed soldiers at the gun encampments). After the Brewsters took it over in the mid-40s, the building was moved to its current location and today, it holds a small office, lots of ice, and that's about it.

Mike explains that twice a week, the ice truck arrives with big blocks of freshly cut ice, but for Fourth of July week it might be twice that. Brewster's Ice has evolved through the eras as best it can, and Mike's fully aware that many young people today are oblivious to the fact that years ago, an "Ice Man" would deliver blocks of the frozen stuff to both families and businesses.

That would have been Virgil Brewster, who carved a reputation for himself as one of the hardest working local merchants the city has ever known. He'd lug 100-pound blocks of ice on his back all through town, looking at the cardboard hexagonal measuring signs folks would post in their windows.

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