Ride Along For The Day In A Mr. Softee Truck

Just about every neighborhood has ice cream trucks, but there’s something special about Mister Softee. Perhaps it’s the treats, but more than likely it’s the ever-repeating tune that streams endlessly out of the rooftop speakers… even when the truck is parked outside your apartment for four hours straight… But I digress.

CNN convinced one Mr. Softee franchisee in Brooklyn to let them ride along with her for the day, where she reveals how much she makes — anywhere from $400 to $900/day — and the costs of being a Softee driver — she had to pay $90K for the truck and has to store it in an approved lot.

But, aside from making me want some soft serve (in spite of four summers spent twisting curls on cones at Dairy Queen), the biggest shock is that she actually loves that infernal song!

Of course, I might too if I could pull down $900 a day.

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  1. smo0 says:

    Holy crap! If it weren’t for the stigma of ice cream truck drivers… I might do this.

    But then again… those pervs don’t do it for the money.

    On a side note: one of my childhood friends, Gina, got hit by an ice cream truck – I think I was 6 or 7. She got both of her arms broken.

    • Kilawat12 says:

      I’m sure that made it hard for her to eat her soft serve ice cream she got in the lawsuit…

    • DoktorGoku says:

      Hey! Reggie Bannister was a hero ice cream truck driver in the Phantasm movies! ;D

    • Draygonia says:

      Not sure how you can angle it to where you break just both your arms and are otherwise unharmed… Unless she thought she was superman and tried to stop it with her arms?

      Anyways… that is a great profit! 900 per day! Of course you have to figure your cost to cool the truck, the truck itself and the generators and coolers probably run six figures. Start-up is most likely hanging around 150k.

  2. NarcolepticGirl says:

    I haven’t seen an active ice cream truck in years.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      I’m guessing that’s because I lived in a part of a city where there no kids in the neighborhood.
      …and also because parents probably think all ice cream drivers are serial killers/drug dealers/ molesters – so they probably lost some business over the years since everyone has gone nuts.

      • Hoss says:

        There are none in my area either. There is both a safety concern (a child was killed 25 years ago running for ice cream), and a noise nuisance.

    • smo0 says:

      I’m gonna go on a limb here…. they are usually in “poorer” neighborhoods.

      This is from my experience in where I lived.

      I lived in an area of town were my apartment was 1200/mo for a 1bed/1bath. Pretty ritzy homes around me, I worked within walking distance. Never once saw an ice cream truck.
      Now I live in a slightly older part of town, low income housing not far from me – and I see them everywhere.

      • Tim says:

        You know, you might be onto something. The only time I’ve seen an ice cream truck (save for on the National Mall) was when I lived a block away from the projects in southwest Virginia.

      • Alexk says:

        I don’t think that has much to do with it. In my experience, the trucks stick to neighborhoods with a good number of kids, but avoid the main roads in those neighborhoods. They want to have a clientele, but they don’t want to go down streets where other drivers resent the constant stops an ice-cream truck makes.

      • tbax929 says:

        I disagree. I think it has to do with the number of kids in an area. My neighborhood is very affluent, but most of the folks up here are either retired or don’t have any kids at home. Therefore, no ice cream trucks. When I lived in PA, I was in a really nice neighborhood with a lot of kids. We got an ice cream truck daily there.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I didn’t get an ice cream truck when I was a kid, and I was in a nice neighborhood full of kids! We were all ripped off, I think.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      We’ve got an ice cream man. I know it’s officially summer when I hear him for he first time. It’s not an actual truck, but a thing like a Jeep fitted with a big cooler. It goes “DING DING” instead of playing a tune.

      There are quite a few kids in my neighborhood. I’ve even bought ice cream from him myself. Although it’s a lot more expensive than when I was a kid!

  3. ngoandy says:

    What happens now is that there will be copycats in the suburbs trying to replicate those results.

    • UltimateOutsider says:

      The $90K outlay for a truck will be a hindrance.

    • packy says:

      I remember hearing an NPR story last summer about copycats–people with trucks that say “Mister Softee” on them, but aren’t franchisees. It costs the Mr. Softee organization a chunk of change tracking them down, and even when they get judgements against them, they’re back out on the street almost immediately.

  4. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I still remember when a Weezer Italian Ice truck got pulled over in the lot at the gas station I was working at, and while the cop wrote up the ticket, I bought some italian ice.

  5. mac-phisto says:

    there’s a lot of money in this type of food vending. i know a few individuals that live year-round on the money they make serving up dogs in the nice weather season.

    someone please remind me why i’m a desk jockey.

  6. Thorzdad says:

    There were Mr. Softee trucks all over the place way back when I was a kid. That guy did land-office business back then. I think Mr. Softee pretty much disappeared from Indy by the mid-70′s. Sad.

    Now, we’re lucky to have one lame popsicle truck wander through our neighborhood a couple of times a week in the summer. And I never see any kids lining up for it.

    When I explain Mr. Softee to my kids (basically, a DQ on wheels) they are amazed something so cool ever existed. Every rare once in awhile I’ll spot a Mr. Softee-like truck quietly rusting-away in a farm lot somewhere and it’ll make me a little sad.

    • majortom1981 says:

      They still exist here on long island. they get huge lines when they show up at little league baseball games and stuff.

    • dreamking says:

      I see three – different – Mister Softee trucks a day in our neck of Brooklyn. The first one was spotted on their rounds in March.

  7. cash_da_pibble says:

    Sigh. The days of Ice Cream Trucks.
    They always scream by my Cul-de-dac, that Taunting tune rising as it approaches at breakneck speed and fading just as fast.
    I can’t get outside fast enough to flag them down!

    At least with the Paletero guys, once you buy they’ll always walk real slow in front of the house, ringing the bell and hoping I’m in the mood for a double-fudge.
    Which I always am!
    Yummmmm…

  8. eccsame says:

    Leonard!

  9. Mighty914 says:

    Big Worm says you can make even more if you sell things other than ice cream out of the truck…

  10. Binkley says:

    I think LA/NY/other metro areas have dessert trucks which I guess are like the modern day ice cream trucks?

    I mean this “new” food truck craze must mean there are dessert trucks…

    • Trance says:

      There are dessert trucks in NYC– Cupcake, belgium waffles and anything else you can think of. There are also Mr. Softee’s that set up at corners all around NYC. They usually don’t play the song (thankfully for the people who live nearby).

  11. ninjafirefighter says:

    I used to drive an ice cream truck. Let me tell you the hell it was. My roof top jingle was “The Entertainer” which would skip out every 4th or so note. Add to that no AC, on the 100+ degree days and the costs of the truck, it was the worst job I ever had. What made it super awful was that the owner of the truck fleet required all trucks to park on his lot and buy ice cream from him only. This wouldn’t have been so bad; except the storage place had mysterious power outages right around the owners mortgage payment time. When the power went out, about $3000 of wholesale ice cream would go melty in the truck, forcing the drivers to restock. Factor that by a fleet of 30 trucks and the guy was making bank. After the 4th power outage, and working at a $6k deficit, I said “Forget this!” and went to work as a dishwasher.

    Worst…Summer…ever!

  12. BBBB says:

    “Of course, I might too if I could pull down $900 a day.”

    That is not that much after the expenses – She mentions all the fees/expenses paid to Mr. Softee (Check out the contracts for franchises and you find that you have to buy EVERYTHING from them. The prices are many times what you could find elsewhere. If they catch you buying from other sources, they can fine you or they can take the franchise business from you and you lose everything you put into it.)

    Also, the $400 to $900 a day comes with NO benefits, NO pension/retirement, and NO vacation. Also, it has to cover all the government permits, business insurance, vehicle maintenance, etc.

    She probably has to make $400 a day just to cover expenses.

    There is an independent ice cream truck that goes through my neighborhood and we usually get something when she comes by – partly the fun of getting a treat and partly to support a hard working independent business owner. [My wife and I work for ourselves so we understand how hard it is to work without a safety net.]

    • vastrightwing says:

      Exactly, who cares if it’s a Mr. Softee or whatever. Do kids say, naw, I don’t like that ice cream truck? Don’t think so.

    • VashTS says:

      WHo gets benefits these days. I do not. I guess you do huh? All I know is my tax dollars go to Microsoft employees to get free health care and I get none.

      • DorsalRootGanglion says:

        In the failboat reading department, VashTS!

        “My wife and I work for ourselves so we understand how hard it is to work without a safety net.]”

        Last sentence of the post. Be careful not to decapitate yourself with that axe you have to grind.

  13. JulesNoctambule says:

    There’s a food truck that only circulates a few neighbourhoods over called the Snack-n-Go, but based on its hours of operation and the occasional police interest, we’ve nicknamed it the Crack-n-Go. I can hear its tinny music even with the windows closed, and I often find myself fantasizing about the episode of ‘Bones’ where Booth shoots the clown off an ice cream van because of the annoying tune.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      That was a great episode. I also hate clowns. I saw Toy Story 3 over the weekend and cringed when I saw a clown.

  14. seamer says:

    I haven’t bought an ice cream out of a van since I caught the driver with his hands in the soft serve as he was making a cone for me… and then licked them.

  15. windycitygirl68 says:

    Enjoy while you can. Our wonderful suburb banned ice cream trucks last year. As in forever. Must we rip every shred of childhood fun from kids’ hands?

    • theblackdog says:

      Yes, next you won’t be allowed to let your kids lick the bowl when you make chocolate chip cookies because the dough has eggs and they might get salmonella!

      *goes off to make a batch of cookies and eat the dough*

  16. Outrun1986 says:

    We actually have a Mr. Softee truck here right now, I haven’t bought anything from it but I am very tempted mainly because I think I have bought ice cream out of a truck about a whole once in my life. Strangely we didn’t have ice cream trucks when I was a kid, I remember seeing one as a teenager and not wanting any ice cream from it but I did buy for some relatives of mine.

  17. brandymb says:

    I HATE the music. There’s several that cruze my neighborhood and they all play Turkey in the Straw. And there’s one that has a fire bell on the top of it that goes BRRRRIIING every ten seconds or so.. and at 9 to 10 at night. But the kicker is when the turkey stops right down the street and lets the music go while I’m trying to relax or watch TV. (Bad thoughts)

  18. webweazel says:

    I just returned from a visit to NJ. Every day, when I heard the music coming, I’d run outside like my ass was on fire. Childhood memories….There’s one in Maple Shade that’s a Mr. Softee in a stand-alone building. It’s been there for probably more than 35 years, as I remember going there when I was a wee kid. Drove by there one day, and there was a line of people across the parking lot, as usual.

    Where we are now, we get the ice cream van, about once or twice a month, and it’s only ice cream bars and such. No soft serve. I miss it.

  19. PerpetualStudent says:

    I’d watch out for the free mister softee rides…

  20. FooSchnickens - Full of SCAR says:

    Major Pete & Pete flashback

  21. dreamking says:

    People thinking this has to do with poor neighborhoods are off. It has to do with population density and how many kids ages 2-16 are around. It’s only indirectly about income. In my neighborhood there are literally around 10,000 children in this age range. That supports three Mister Softee trucks, an independent that keeps trying to sneak it (it can get ugly), and about 20 italian ice pushcarts.

  22. packy says:

    Ok, I’m catching up after a few days away, but I have to post a link to the best Mister Softee franchisee out there:

    http://twitter.com/miss_softee

    She dresses up the plain cones with daily specials!