Ice cream trucks are the latest target of inflation

On a steamy evening at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, Jaime Cabal has a line of customers at the Mister Softee ice cream truck. He mixed milkshakes, put in bowls of soft vanilla-flavored strawberries and put cones in cherry and blue-raspberry shells. One boy finished his treat immediately and begged his parents for more, pointing to menu pops like SpongeBob SquarePants, Sonic the Hedgehog and Tweety.

Crowds like these are becoming rarer for ice cream vendors across the country as higher gasoline prices provide a boost, leaving some truck owners to refuse. their future in business.

Owning an ice cream truck used to be lucrative, but for some, the expense has become unbearable: The diesel that powers the trucks has gone up to $7 a gallon, vanilla ice cream costs $13 a gallon and the current 25-pound litter box. going for about $60, double what it cost a year ago.

Many retailers say that the end of the ice-cream-truck era has been going on for years. Even the parking lots that have these trucks are changing, renting out parking spaces to other food vendors as the number of ice cream trucks decreases.

Parks, lakes and public roads used to be the original territory for the ice cream man. And now, more often than not, a soft truck jingle plays to a crowd of no one as the price for some cones with extras like swirly ice cream and chocolate sauce is up to $8 in some trucks.

Although no organization seems to have a firm count of how many ice-cream trucks are currently operating on the streets of New York City, some owners say they may be leaving the business. over the next few years. It’s an effect that’s being felt across the country, as mobile ice-cream vendors face higher fees for city licenses and registrations, as well as stiff competition from other ice cream businesses, Steve Christensen, CEO said the head of the North American Ice Cream Association.

He said ice cream trucks are “fortunately becoming a thing of the past.”

New delivery methods, through third-party applications or spirit kitchens, are increasing. Brick-and-mortar scoop shops focus on providing a fun experience, he said, and offer more flavors than traditional ice cream trucks can, driving the line out of these trucks.

Mr. Cabal, an ice cream vendor in Queens, who has worked in an ice cream truck for the past nine years, said: “It’s awesome. Inflation has raised the cost of equipment for the truck. Last year, when his slushy machine broke down, the parts he needed cost $1,600. He decided to wait a few months to fix it, but the part almost doubled in price, to $3,000. Now, slushy is off the menu and the machine is sitting in his car.

In 2018, Mr. Cabal thought that the business at Flushing Meadows Corona Park would be good enough to support his own car, so he sold his house in New Jersey for $380,000, moved to Hicksville, NY, and bought the Mister Softee franchise. He won a contract with the city to work on the park.

Despite the tens of thousands of dollars he pays annually for that right and others, Mr. Cabal has opposed unlicensed vendors selling fruit, empanadas and Duro wheels from baby strollers, and even ice cream from pushcarts placed right around his vehicle. He said that they had reduced the price to such an extent that he would not be allowed to run.

In Lower Manhattan, Ramon Pacheco is struggling with his recent decision to raise his prices by 50 cents to cover some of his daily expenses, such as $80 in gas ($15 before the pandemic) and $40 on diesel, ($18 before). Now he pays about $41 for three gallons of vanilla ice cream that used to cost him $27.

He has sold ice cream for 27 years, and since the epidemic, he said he has realized that he wants. Now it costs about $200, before expenses, to sell ice cream for nine hours. Sometimes, if a customer always comes to him with $2 for ice cream, he will sell it at a loss.

“I’m 66 years old and I’m tired,” Mr. Pacheco said in Spanish, adding that he was thinking of selling his truck next year.

Carlos Cutz decided to leave his deli job two years ago to work at an ice cream truck to support himself, his wife and their three children. He took out a loan and bought his own truck in May.

The ice cream man who bought it had a location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Mr. Cutz has resisted raising prices to avoid alienating his customers, even though his spending has doubled for products like a pack of 250 cake cones.

He said in Spanish: “These have been the worst years for ice cream trucks, adding “I will try to do my best to continue this business. I feed my family and I can’t leave a business I haven’t tried.”

Gasoline prices have been a shock in recent months for Andrew Miscioscia, owner of Andy’s Italian Ices NYC who operates three trucks for private dining events. He spent $6,800 in June on gas alone. Mr. Miscioscia tried to eat during the epidemic when the market collapsed on the Upper West Side.

He said: “People don’t go out like they used to. “And there’s a lot of competition out there.”

Even so, the appearance of an ice truck on a hot summer day continues to appeal to many. At Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Domenica Chumbi, of Hillside, NJ, has a vanilla cone topped with a cherry shell for her quinceañera photo. The pink ice cream not only matched her dress and her party’s cherry theme, but it also invited memories of childhood visits to the park.

He said: “It reminds me of New York.

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