Scooping up profits: Dayton-area ice cream couple rolls on

Shelly and James “Jimbo” Greenberg sell ice cream from a fleet of vans — and business has been good, the Greenbergs say. On a recent afternoon, they were in the neighborhood around Steam Academy of Dayton. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

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Shelly and James “Jimbo” Greenberg sell ice cream from a fleet of vans — and business has been good, the Greenbergs say. On a recent afternoon, they were in the neighborhood around Steam Academy of Dayton. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Shelly and James “Jimbo” Greenberg’s business is selling ice cream — and if you ask them, business is good.

The married couple and their employees have been selling frozen treats across the Dayton area for close to a quarter of a century. Today, they have a fleet of some 20 vans and right-hand-drive Jeeps plying their delicious wares.

“We’ve been here for over 20 years,” James Greenberg said, who started his ice cream career as a Good Humor truck driver.

The Greenbergs sell exclusively Blue Bunny ice cream. They own their trucks and affiliate with Ice Cream on Wheels, which describes itself as a “network of hundreds of independently owned ice cream trucks.” They call their business simply: “Shelly & Jimbo’s Ice Cream Treats.”

Ice Cream on Wheels is allied with Roaming Hunger, a company that specializes in letting customers book a variety of food trucks for corporate and other events.

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.”

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