Three steps out of the car, I could spot the store at the corner of the block; on the green, white, and red canopy, a sign read the name, “Pesso’s Italian Ices,” and through the two big panels of glass that made up one walls of the store, a bright interior shone invitingly. Plastered on the back wall were signs that were labeled with various delicious treats like ices, creamy ices, gelato, and milkshakes. The array of vibrant colors of ice cream inside the freezers reflected the endless flavor options that the signs promised. To name a few, there was coffee brownie brittle, pistachio and the classics, vanilla and chocolate. The customers inside were leaning against the windows, laughing and talking casually while enjoying their choice of frozen treats.

Upon entering the store, Kathy and I were greeted by a man behind the counter, who happened to be the owner himself, Gidon Pesso. With glasses perched on his nose and a thick jacket on, Pesso agreed to have a conversation with us. He excitedly waved towards the table in a corner and as we sat down, he began to unravel the history behind how the beloved Italian ices store came to be in the Bayside, Queens neighborhood.


Gidon Pesso, owner of Pesso's Italian Ices
Taken by Stella Ma

Gidon Pesso was born in America, but grew up in Israel. At age 25, he moved back to America and met his wife there. For years he worked as a house painter before he decided that he wanted to adopt a new career. “I searched for something I would like to do in terms of career change,” Pesso said. “[I] kind of went back to my childhood and thought about what I’d love to do and ice cream always kept on coming back.” Twelve years ago, in 2004, he translated that dream into reality when he bought the recipes and the store from a friend.

The goods made at Pesso’s starts with mixes, fruit purees, and sugar. After mixing, the products are put together in a machine, taken out, poured into containers, and then frozen. After this labor intensive process, the product of ice cream, ices, gelato, and more are fresh and ready to be served to eager customers.

People don't come here because they have to. It's because they want to.

The store is not seasonal, so people can come in all year round to enjoy ice cream and ices. Pesso compares the business to a bar when he says “you come here to have ice cream to leave everything behind and just enjoy. That frivolous kind of a thing. What happens in Pesso’s stays in Pesso’s.” The customers that come in visit not only because they like ice cream, but because they crave a fun and cool atmosphere. People of different nationalities visit, including the dedicated regulars who go Pesso’s on a weekly basis since it first opened, and people who only stop by once. No matter how different the customer, Pesso knows that they all have one thing in common: they don’t come in because they have to; they come in because they want to.

The History of the Neighborhood

 Pesso’s Italian Ices is located in Bayside, Queens, a well-known upper-middle class neighborhood. Bayside grew as a neighborhood in the mid 20th century as rich Irish, Italian, and German American families has bought houses and settled in. Of course, it wouldn’t be surprising then that the demographic of the neighborhood in regards to race was predominantly White. When Pesso’s Italian Ices opened, about 74.98% of the population was white while 18.138% of the population was Asian. Only 2.6% of the population was Black or African American and 0% was American Indian and Alaska Native. Fifteen years later, we see a few shifts. Although half of the population (50.2%) are still White, Asians now make up 34.5% of the population meaning the percentage of Asian people increased by 16.4%. The percentage of Black or African Americans or American Indian and Alaska Natives are now close to 0%. Because Bayside is located closely to Flushing, an area predominately Asian, the influx of Asians could have occurred because people from Flushing were moving out to Bayside. From the shaded pictures on the side, it is evident that since the year 2000, the White population has decreased (the sections are a lighter orange) while the Asian population has increased (the sections are a darker orange).


Asian Population in Bayside
Top: Year 2000
Bottom: Year 2015


White Population in Bayside
Top: Year 2000
Bottom: Year 2015

In the past, Bayside has been known to be a residential area and to this day, it is still known as a suburb inside New York City borders. Houses, usually single-family units with a grass front lawn, line whole blocks, an abundant amount of green space, like Crocheron park, is present, and stores are often located in the same area. In the map of Bayside in 1943, the colored boxes reveal that the majority of the neighborhood seems to be occupied by residential homes. The pictures provided in the “1943 Profile of the Bayside, Queens Area” from the New York City Market Analysis, reflects this idea too. There are many houses with a shopping strip on one block. When Google Maps is used to view the addresses in the 1943 profile today, it is evident that the land has not changed. The location with houses still have houses and Francis Lewis Boulevard is still a popular shopping strip, but with different stores.


Household Incomes of the Population of Bayside
Left: Year 2000
Right: Year 2015

Bayside is also known for being a wealthy area of New York City for upper-middle class people residents. According to “Bayside: A City Suburb with Enclave,” a New York Times article by Alison Gregor, Betsy Pilling, a lifelong resident and the broker/owner of Pilling Real Estate, states that people in Bayside are paying a lot of money to live there. In the article, other brokers say that “detached three-bedroom houses start at $600,000 or so” and that “there are few, if any, affordable housing options, so buyers tend to be affluent.” To visualize this affluence in numbers, I turned to tables listing household incomes in Bayside. In 2000, the average household income was $99,515. About 41.5% of households make between $60,000 to $124,999. However, the bulk of that percentage (17 % of it) lies in the range of $100,000 to $124,000, which is the general income of the upper-middle class. Only 5.6% of households make less than $20,000. In 2015, the average household income has not changed by much. It is now $99,567, which is a $52 difference.  About 38.2% of households make between $60,000 to $124,999. This decrease in percentage of this range of income can be explained by an increase in percentage of the incomes that are $125,000 or greater. Four percent of households make less than $20,000 which is a 1.6% decrease from the year 2000.


Map of Residential Areas of Bayside in 1943


Left: Pictures of Bayside in 1943
Top Right: 203rd St. From 5th Ave. Today
Bottom Right: Francis Lewis Boulevard Today

The biggest changes in the neighborhood has been the balance of ethnicities. It can be argued that diversity of the area has increased as the White population decreased and other populations grew. The suburban vibe of the neighborhood and the wealthiness of the people has not changed dramatically over the years. Bayside is still a highly desirable residential area for many people. Even Pesso has stated that Bayside, over the years, has become more of a destination residential area. He says, “[There’s no bad things about working in this neighborhood because it’s a fun, cool thing.” And although the neighborhood is shifting, Pesso’s Italian Ices remains a hot spot for people of all ages to come in to enjoy some ice cream.

Pesso’s Now and in the Future

Along with adapting to changes in the neighborhood, many small businesses face obstacles such as conflicts with rent prices or paying for yearly permits that make it difficult to run the businesses. Pesso agrees that running a small business is a tough challenge. He says the cost of doing business is crazy for a small business because they have to take into account regular expenses and the New York State and City regulations and taxes. For example, he says raising minimum wage makes it difficult because a change from $9.00 to $10.50 overnight can cause almost a 14% hike in labor expenses for him. Customers may expect more people behind the counter for better service but it is difficult when the minimum wage increases and the cost of rent, water, and materials need to be paid for too.

A lot of businesses, when things get more difficult financially, put less cheese on their pizza. They water down their sauce. I did the opposite. I put more cookies in my cookie dough and got a better product. Got better freezers, more efficient. Made the store brighter, made it more welcoming.
Photo Credits: Pesso's Italian Ices

To fix this problem, Pesso is tackling this problem in his own way:

“Every single year I made my product better, I made my store cleaner, I made it brighter, [and I] got the best people. A lot of business, when things get more difficult financially, put less cheese on their pizza [and] they water down their sauce. I did the opposite. I put more cookies in my cookie dough and got a better product. Got better freezers, more efficient. Made the store brighter, made it more welcoming.”

Another lesson Pesso learned along the way was to keep less inventory so that thousands of dollars weren’t sitting in storage. When there is an emergency and he needs to buy something better, he will have the money ready. Now, he only orders the number of cups and spoons that he needs. Additionally, Pesso comments that to make a small business work, you have to reach out. They went on social media and they currently have 6,500 followers on Facebook, a vast increase from the 1,000 followers from last year. He has also paired with UberEats so that his treats can be ordered and delivered to locations up to 6 miles away. This helps the store with slow times and grants customers the convenience of getting a treat from Pesso’s easily.

Even though Pesso says, “I spend 20% of my day searching for better products, better ways, more simple ways, and more affordable ways to run my business and efficiently,” he states that when running a small business you can never get too comfortable. With that, he ends the conversation with the following advice to always be smart and innovative. 

After the interview, Kathy and I bought ices as our treat for the day. I chose rainbow, my favorite flavor of ices that compromised the flavors of cherry, lemon, and blue raspberry in ices form. My spoon sunk smoothly into the bright red, white, and blue and the ice melted nicely in my mouth. The flavor was apparent, fresh, and very tasty. As we exited the friendly atmosphere of the shop, I could see how Pesso’s Italian Ices is a popular meeting spot for the residents of quiet, but bustling Bayside. Pesso’s Italian Ices meets a local demand for its specialties of cold, sweet treats. Its friendly staff facilitates the thriving business so that people can visit all year round to indulge in their guilty pleasures of ice cream.

Photo Credits: Pesso's Italian Ices


-1943 Profile of the Bayside, Queens area. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from

-Gregor, Alison. “Bayside: A City Suburb With Enclaves” New York Times. Sep 2013.

– US Demography 1790 to Present. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2017, from

-Photo Credits: Pesso’s Italian Ices

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