It’s Monday. A San Francisco shop owner is trying to turn a hate crime into a positive. Plus, what the Golden Gate Bridge is (finally) doing to prevent suicides.

When she woke up on the morning of Oct. 25 and read her text messages, Robyn Sue Fisher couldn’t stop crying and shaking.

She learned from an employee that overnight someone had smashed the front windows of her shop, Smitten Ice Cream, in the Mission District of San Francisco and spray painted the store with graffiti. One message read “FREE PALESTIEN” — apparently spelling Palestine wrong — and another read “OUT THE MISSION.”

Fisher, 44, is Jewish. She knows of no other businesses in the area that were struck that night, and the police told her that they were investigating the attack as a hate crime. The vandalism made headlines around the Bay Area, and The Jewish News of Northern California cited it as an example of rising antisemitic episodes in the United States since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

Fisher boarded up the shop, on Valencia Street, that day and announced on Instagram that she was closing it, at least for a while. And then she remained quiet and didn’t grant interviews until we met on a recent afternoon inside the store, which was still protected by plywood.

Fisher, wearing a red Smitten T-shirt and matching bandanna around her neck, sat cross-legged on a wooden bench and alternated between tears and smiles.

“At first I felt fear and then I felt anger and then I felt a deep sorrow,” she said. “And then I felt empathy, and that’s how I got to love.”

She’s determined, in a world filled with division and hate, to add a little sweetness. She has decided to reopen the store as soon as the new windows come in — hopefully by Thanksgiving.

And she’s creating a new line of T-shirts and sweatshirts that say “In the spirit of ice cream, I choose LOVE.” The new apparel will soon be available in her store and online. All of the proceeds will benefit the Courage Museum, which is set to open in 2025 in the Presidio, the Army base turned park near the Golden Gate Bridge.

The museum, according to its website, will focus on “ending the public health crisis caused by violence, and the hate that fuels it.”

Fisher declined to comment on the Israel-Hamas war, saying she preferred to focus on trying to make “a teeny tiny dent in the storm” by accentuating love. And there has been a lot of it since the vandalism.

Fisher said she had been overwhelmed by supportive messages from friends and strangers, including one from a fellow San Francisco small-business owner, a Palestinian American man. “My support to you,” he wrote. “No one that does that speaks for Palestinians.”

“We live and love and work together,” he also wrote, adding: “We are feeling unsafe as well and afraid to speak up. There’s love here. I choose that.”

People have donated more than $70,000 to a GoFundMe campaign to help Fisher repair the damage to her store and pay her employees’ lost wages. Two teenage girls stopped by to cover the shop’s plywood in red and white hearts.

Tensions have risen in the Bay Area, as in other regions of the U.S., in the weeks since Hamas terrorists attacked residents in Israel and the country responded with devastating airstrikes against Gaza. The divide in opinions has roiled the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, and thousands of people protesting Israel’s military campaign filled Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco on Saturday.

The attack against Smitten Ice Cream is one of the few hate crimes that have been reported recently in the Bay Area. Another came Friday when a Muslim student at Stanford said he was struck on campus by a hit-and-run driver who yelled about “you and your people,” preceded by an expletive, according to the university’s public safety department. The episode is being investigated by the California Highway Patrol as a hate crime.

Fisher graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts and worked for a few years as a management consultant. While attending Stanford Business School, she discovered that she was “a maker” and that she wanted to produce something that would bring the sort of joy to people that she lacked growing up because she had serious medical issues, Fisher said. She landed on ice cream.

She patented the Brrr Machine, which can make ice cream from scratch in front of a customer in just 90 seconds. She started by pulling it around San Francisco on a wagon, posting messages on social media about the day’s flavor and her location. “Come find me before the cops do!” she recalled posting.

She now has three stores: in Las Vegas, San Jose and on Valencia Street, tucked between a boutique and bookstore. She said her business barely survived the coronavirus pandemic. Then came the vandalism last month. But she’s hopeful now.

“I’m more committed to keeping it open than ever,” she said. “I want to offer a message of resilience and love.”

Asked what she’d say to the person who attacked her store, Fisher said, “I would invite them to have some ice cream with me.”

Today’s tip comes from Kim Kern, who lives in Windsor. Kim recommends a visit to her own town, which is about 60 miles north of San Francisco:

“We are surrounded by breathtaking rolling hills, vineyards and ancient oak trees. We have a lovely community of engaged citizens who continually bring the vision of a diverse and vibrant community to life. There are events year-round in our charming town green including a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Grove during the holidays, an annual chili cook-off, Dia de Muertos de Windsor, Coffee With a Cop, Summer Nights on the Green with live music and movies and a year-round farmers’ market. We also offer numerous parks, hiking trails and bike paths. We have a healthy local economy that is home to international as well as local businesses. We have 50 wineries located within five miles, a beverage district with craft breweries, cideries and distillers. We also have a diverse and award-winning restaurant and food scene where you can find everything from a chocolatier shop, organic ice cream, and Himalayan, Italian and taqueria food.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.


For several months, readers have been emailing us their favorite places to experience art in California. Send your own suggestions to [email protected]. Please include your name and the city where you live.


The California parks department has kicked off a new pilot program to fund public artwork in its vast network of parks, the latest in a string of initiatives aimed at making the state’s park system more inclusive and widely accessible.

The program, Arts in California Parks, provides funding to artists, residents and members of Indigenous tribes in California who wish to create or perform artwork in California’s state and local parks with a focus on projects that highlight, and challenge, commonly held ideas about the state’s history.

Expected to run through 2027, the program is a collaboration between the California Arts Council, a state agency supporting local art programming; and Parks California, the parks department’s nonprofit partner.

“Art brings tremendous cultural and social value to public parks,” Kindley Walsh Lawlor, the president of Parks California, said. “This new program is an exciting opportunity for everyone to create lasting memories in parks.”

So far, over 20 artistic projects — including performances and community-focused events — are in progress within the state parks, with more to come. Artists and community members hoping to participate in program-funded projects can get involved in 2024, when opportunities for collaboration are announced.

Learn more about the program and its upcoming projects here.


Thanks for reading. Happy Monday. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Correction: Friday’s newsletter misstated the year that the photo of Linda Dishman was taken. It was taken early in her tenure as head of the Los Angeles Conservancy, which began in 1992. It was not taken in 1978.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Soumya Karlamangla, Maia Coleman and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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