HAVANA, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- In hot summer days, ice cream shops like Coppelia in Havana would become an especially pupular hangout spot for locals and tourists alike.
"I like to come often because of the variety of flavors they have here," Juliana Peralta, a state employee on vacation, told Xinhua.
Undeterred by the long lines snaking their way into Coppelia, which is frequented by celebrities and dignitaries, Peralta said, "standing in line also has its magic, because while you wait you can talk or watch people go by, though frankly the heat makes it hard to indulge in that recreation (people-watching)."
Standing close to Peralta was Caridad Hernandez, 50, who joined the conversation to say that she has been coming to the shop "since she was a child," and is now passing on the tradition to the next generation.
"These days I come with my daughter, who is 14," said Hernandez, adding they usually need an ice cream before going for a walk.
Opened in June 1966, Coppelia is one of the world's largest ice cream parlors, with a capacity for 700 customers and a variety of 50 flavors.
Its building was designed by renowned Cuban architect Mario Girona (1924-2008) in Italian and South American modernist style.
Since its opening, Coppelia has been a hit, as customers sometimes need to share table with strangers, a tradition that is still on today.
Cuba's intelligentsia considered it a favorite place, with singer Silvio Rodriguez, poets Victor Cassaus and Luis Rogelio Nogueras, salsa musician Juan Formell and the diva of the Buena Vista Social Club, Omara Portuondo, among the regular customers.
Coppelia is such a Havana icon that in the award-winning 1993 Cuban film "Strawberry and Chocolate", directors Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio shot one of the opening scenes there.
Like many businesses in Cuba, the ice cream shop was hard hit by the economic crisis of the 1990s, officially known as the "Special Period". As part of belt-tightening measures, the store whittled down its famously extensive range of flavors.
But the business has been revived. In April, the shop closed for major renovation while one million U.S. dollars were spent to modernize the Coppelia ice cream plant, which today produces some 15 flavors.
"This is an establishment with a long history, that has served many people who came here to fall in love, and have and share high-quality ice cream," the director of the ice cream shop, Amaury Martinez, said.
Each day, store clerks serve more than 7,000 people, 11,000 or more on weekends, making Coppelia Cuba's enduring ice cream Mecca.