Where Ice Cream Vendors Go for the Winter

Ice cream trucks, hibernating.
Ice cream trucks, hibernating.
edkohler/flickr

If today's weather is any indication, summer is well and truly over, which makes Fork in the Road think about all of those frozen treat purveyors who spoiled us so thoroughly over the past few months. This may have been the Summer of Street Food, but whereas something like a kebab or a burrito may enjoy year-round appeal, ice cream is a slightly more fair-weather affair. So with the the strains of One Ring Zero's "Where Do Ice Cream Trucks Go in the Winter?" in our ears, we asked a few of the city's stone cold vendors where they'll be going during the chillier months.

For Doug Quint, the avuncular co-owner of The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, the end of the season means that "it's time to grab the reeds." When he's not dispensing soft serve, Quint is a professional bassoon player. After the Vendy Awards, he's closing up shop and hitting the bassoon in preparation for a busy winter performance schedule. He's also working on his dissertation for his doctorate of musical arts in bassoon performance. Though he's enjoyed his summer gig, he says, "I don't think I could ever give up the bassoon; it gives me such a sense of fulfillment." But that doesn't mean he won't be back next summer: Big Gay has become Big Gay Incorporated, and Quint and his business partner are planning to use the winter to "collect ourselves" and explore what's next. They've had franchise offers for trucks from Malaysia to Provincetown to San Francisco, but "we want to do it ourselves," Quint says. Plus, there are other food ideas he'd like to explore. Though the truck began as "a fun summer project," it's given him perspective on "what cloistered lives we live. The other day I served ice cream to a woman in burka. That's not something I do when I'm sitting in an orchestra, that's for sure."

The winter will also give the people behind People's Pops some time to think about the future. David Carrell, who started the small company last summer with Nathalie Jordi and Joel Horowitz, says that they're planning to extend the season by selling their popsicles in local stores like Stinky Bklyn, which has already started carrying a selection. Carrell, Jordi, and Horowitz all have other jobs -- Jordi is a "freelance writer and globetrotter," Horowitz a freelance art director, and Carrell works for ABC. So they'll spend the winter working and plotting where they'd like to sell their pops. While Carrell predicts that the lure of "selling ice cold pops off of the water in Dumbo" will have diminished by the time he closes up shop at the beginning of October, he hopes to appeal to the more devoted souls who "even in January like having a bowl of ice cream." And though year-round potential is further limited by seasonal ingredients used in the popsicles, Carrell says he and his partners have "no plans to make pies or soups. We're sticking to pops. There will be no people's coffee."

For Chrissy, who's known more commonly throughout Midtown as Miss Softee, the end of the season (she's closing at the end of September) also means a chance to explore other opportunities. "I'm just kind of winging it this winter," she says. After "traveling for a month or two months," she's planning to look for another job, possibly as a bartender. While many ice cream truck drivers have a year-round license that allows them to switch over to hot chocolate, coffee, and hot dogs in the winter, Chrissy's seasonal permit means that she has to be off the streets between October 31 and the beginning of April. But she'll "definitely return, probably somewhere in Midtown," next spring. "I'm not sure if I'll be in same exact spot -- you don't know where you'll be until the year happens."

Encroaching cold represents opportunity for Ben Van Leeuwen, who's excited to roll out two new Van Leeuwen trucks that, in addition to selling ice cream out of one window, will sell espresso and drip coffee from Intelligentsia out of the other. "It's a very bright, floral coffee," he rhapsodizes, adding that it will be brewed on a Mirage. This being Van Leeuwen, everything about the coffee comes with an artisanal, wholesome slant: Their milk and sugar will be organic, there will be agave nectar, and soy milk will come from Vermont Soy, which uses local, organic soy beans grown in Vermont and Quebec. Van Leeuwen isn't sure how long they'll sell ice cream, but figures that by mid-October, they'll "be completely shut down." So where do ice cream trucks go for the winter? "We go and park wherever we can park for cheap."


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