If you think about it, ice cream vans can be seen as the original “food trucks.”
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Shelly Greenberg. “If you call them (Ice Cream on Wheels) and say, ‘I have a hundred people coming over, I’d like an ice cream truck,’ they will call me and Jim. I will go to that event.”
“We’re a distributor that buys (ice cream) from them (Ice Cream on Wheels),” her husband said.
They also drum up their own independent business through cold calls (no pun intended) and that age-old, never-fail method from summers past: Driving around residential neighborhoods and playing music.
“I’ve worked with them for many years,” said Sharon Rislund, property manager for Miller-Valentine Group Realty Services. “They’re good people, and they do a great service.”
Rislund said she has hired the Greenbergs at least once a year for six to eight years, perhaps longer, mostly at what she described as “client-appreciation” events at properties she manages.
“They bring their truck, and they play their music, and they have their selection of ice creams,” she said. “(People) love it.”
The couple say they emphasize clean, well-maintained, attractive vans. Customers care about the appearance of the truck, they insist.
“We’re bringing the image of the ice cream truck up,” James Greenberg said.
Even in an increasingly diet-conscious age, ice cream remains big business. About 1.54 billion gallons of ice cream and similar frozen desserts were produced in the United States in 2015, according to the International Dairy Foods Association, which says the ice cream “industry” contributes $39 billion to the national economy and supports more than 188,000 jobs.
But the business means more than numbers to the Greenbergs. The couple says they have become close to many of their customers, particularly nursing home residents. They said they were giving ice cream away to children near the Steam Academy in an event organized by the school.
“That just warms my heart,” Shelly Greenberg said. “If I can bring smiles even to little kids who can’t afford an ice cream … let them have what they want. You live once. Let them enjoy an ice cream.”