For little Emily Ghezzi, there's little doubt about the role of ice cream on a blistering hot summer's day.
"It's refreshing," the seven-year-old said as she tended to a lemon and chocolate cone.
Emily and her mother, Elizabeth Esteves, wandered into The Big Chill in Toronto's Little Italy neighbourhood to cool down on Thursday afternoon. Outside, it was 31 C but 40 C with the humidex.
Big Chill manager Brooke Petrovich said the city's heat wave has boosted business by about one-third, with lines out the door during peak periods: lunch time, late afternoon and all evening long. She's had to hike the number of night staff to five people.
"The last few days have been fairly crazy," she said. "It's so hot."
For its staff, the ice cream parlour, which has a pink and green retro decor, provides air conditioning and unlimited free samples. But it can also be a nerve-wracking job, especially when the lines are long and the children indecisive.
"It can … be very stressful because you're just go-go-go and it can be so crazy," said Ms. Petrovich, 21.
Aside from the weather, customers often remark on the sweet smell of waffle cones and have trouble choosing from the 34 flavours. (Best seller: Dark chocolate peanut butter.) And they always tell whoever is behind the counter: "You're so lucky to be surrounded by ice cream," Ms. Petrovich said.
"People are always happy and I love ice cream. So it's a pretty sweet job, pun intended."