I have started an ice cream business. Here is the story….
For several years, I have been a local distributor for a dairy in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. It’s called Trickling Springs Creamery out of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. I have personally visited one of the farms that supplies milk to the creamery, The Family Cow, run by Edwin Shank and his family. I’ve seen a few dairies and I’ve never seen a cleaner milking parlor or a better managed herd. Moreover, all the farms that supply Trickling Springs Creamery have grass-fed cows.
Trickling Spring Creamery Store Shank Family
When I first opened my account with Trickling Springs, I was ordering dairy only for my family and my sister’s. Slowly, I found more families and even some local businesses that wanted to purchase their dairy products through me. Still, gathering individual orders and compiling them, placing the orders, receiving the orders, counting the inventory, splitting it up into individual orders, creating invoices and collecting the money has had little monetary gain for me
Lydia counting the incoming dairy products
But when the dairy truck arrived last week (it comes every two weeks), I had bigger plans. I had ordered 15 three-gallon tubs of ice cream. I had everything from chocolate, vanilla and strawberry (I never cared for strawberry ice cream until I tried 'Trickling Springs’) to cookie dough, chip and mint, and coffee. I was starting an ice cream business. I planned to go to fairs, markets, and events around the state selling ice cream from a mobile ice cream cart. My first event was a Fourth of July celebration at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington.
Unloading the ice cream with TSC driver Chris Downs
After months of research, I purchased a Nelson ice cream cart late this spring. With cold-plate technology, the cart can be plugged in the night before an event and the next day it will stay cold for up to 14 hours without electricity. (After 24 hours unplugged, my cart was holding at 22 degrees Fahrenheit.)
In addition to the cart I needed a trailer for transporting it. That’s where my brothers-in-law came in. When my sister and her family visited from Washington State this June, I asked my brother-in-law, Eric Brown, for help. And my brother-in-law Johnathan Clubb, who lives just a few miles away, worked with Eric to put a hitch onto my truck and then wire it for a trailer. After purchasing a trailer, Eric outfitted the trailer with wood and eye-bolts for strapping down the ice cream cart.
From left to right: Eric Brown and Johnathan Clubb
Meanwhile, I made preparations for selling ice cream. I ran from COSTCO, to Lowes, to Wal-Mart, to Michael’s to the local hardware store to obtain countless items: napkins and plastic spoons, coolers, calculators and a canopy. I found disposable bowls online. I purchased a dozen ice cream scoopers, a cash box, Duck tape, zip ties, a tarp, a garbage can, straps, bungee cords, an easel and several rubber bins to put it all in. Plus I set up a Square account so I could accept credit card payments.
Then there’s the Health Department. I am required to have a hand-washing station on site. This can be accomplished with a thermos full of hot water. However, the spigot must be free-flowing—not a push-button. It took me weeks before I finally located a free-flow spigot online which my brother-in-law swapped out for the original spigots on the thermos.
Just days before my first event, Jeff helped load my ice cream cart on the trailer so we could drive nearly an hour north to have graphics put on my cart. Sign Master, in Staunton, Virginia, worked with me to create the graphics and to apply it to the cart. By the time they were done, my cart looked professional.
Applying graphics to cart
Then the day of the event arrived. The whole family got up early on July 4th to prepare for the long day ahead. In addition to the cart, there was a lot of gear to pack up. We loaded camping chairs, canopy, tables and extension cords along with my new Honda generator (I would need lights after the sun went down). We filled thermoses and strapped them down with bungee cords. We filled a cooler with ice and then I packed it with sandwiches and fruit for us to eat. Then we packed 10 tubs of ice cream into my ice cream cart with extra inventory in marine style coolers on dry ice. Needless to say, we were “loaded for bear.”
Arriving at VMI, we set up next to our friends’ stand, Spencer and Elizabeth Kohl (The Kohl Family Farm) who were selling kabobs made of goat meat. Thanks to their experience (they set up at Farmers Markets regularly), we quickly unloaded the truck and trailer and set up the canopy. Before long, we were ready. Then came our first customer, a woman in her 60’s.
“Which flavor is the best?” she asked me.
“You should try Salted Caramel,” I answered.
She ordered a small salted caramel and took a bite. “This is divine!” she said with a smile.
Then her two friends ordered ice cream and we were off and running.
Customers eating ice cream
Maroon 5 played over the small speaker that Clancy had plugged his iPod into as Clara Belle handed bowls to Jeff. Jeff scooped, Clancy and I collected money, and Maggie handed orders to customers. Tennyson was back-up for scooping. Plus, he had to run back home for cinder blocks to put on the feet of the canopy to keep it from blowing away. (By the time he got back, the roads were blocked and he had to hike it in—cinder blocks in hand.)
Jeff scooping ice cream with Clara Belle
All day long, business was pretty steady. Then around 7 p.m. it got crazy. The line went from about five people to twenty and stayed there for two solid hours. Tennyson jumped in and started scooping along with Jeff. I scooped too! Clara kept the cups coming.
“Clara, I need two smalls and a large,” I called out.
“Three mediums, Clara,” Jeff said.
I scooped and then handed the order to Clancy and Maggie. Maggie put spoons in the cup and handed it to the customer with a napkin.
“That will be $7,” Clancy said, collecting the cash or taking a credit card.
We started emptying tubs. Salted caramel ran out first. Then a tub of cookie dough was gone. The second tub of cookie dough ice cream was so frozen we needed a pick ax. We opened a second tub of chocolate as well as chip-n-mint. It wasn’t until the fireworks started booming that the line ended.
We started cleaning up. By the time the fireworks ended, Jeff and Tennyson had run to get the truck and trailer. It took them a while to reach us through the crowds of people now exiting the VMI parade grounds. Once the ice cream cart was back on the trailer, I strapped it down while everything else was being repacked into the truck and trailer. The Kohls helped us load our gear and then we helped them. Their young son was asleep on the lawn wrapped up in a blanket. Finally we were ready to go. I gave Elizabeth a quick hug, thanking her and Spencer for all their help and we were off. It was after 10:30 p.m.
Arriving home, we unloaded the remaining ice cream from the cart back into my freezers. It was 11 p.m. and we still had the animals to lock-in. We each grabbed a flash-light and split up the chores. Tennyson took care of the chickens, I did the guineas, and Clancy brought in the dog. And we decided everything else on the truck could wait until morning.