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  #1  
Old 06-17-2006, 06:56 PM
DaveRaver DaveRaver is offline
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How can ice cream trucks be profitable?

It would almost seem impossible to sell enough ice cream bars to make up the cost of purchasing the truck, maintenance of the truck, paying today's gas prices and driving around so much. How many ice cream bars does a typical ice cream truck guy sell per day? What's the profit margin?
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  #2  
Old 06-17-2006, 06:59 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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I dunno, but I have never known an ice cream truck person do that as his only job. I've often wondered it, too. But seriously, how much do you pay to maintain your car regularly? I'm thinking:

You buy the car, initial cost. Maybe you get it used.
You drive it from one neighborhood to the next, never taking it to highway speed. Then you drive very slowly through the neighborhood.
Inspection and registration when needed.

How much wear-and-tear could that put on the car? So I presume you don't need to repair it too often.

I still have a hard time seeing it as profitable, though. At least nowadays. I don't think it's that expensive but neither do I think you can sell that much ice cream!
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  #3  
Old 06-17-2006, 07:10 PM
Throatwarbler Mangrove Throatwarbler Mangrove is offline
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A friend of mine drives an ice cream truck on weekends. The truck and ice cream are provided by the ice cream wholesaler and he makes a commision off every sale. His main job is to find good areas to cruise around. It's fairly good money, according to him. He offered to set me up with a job as well today, but I declined. I might give it a try if my other employment prospects fall through, it looks pretty interesting.
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  #4  
Old 06-17-2006, 07:20 PM
spingears spingears is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveRaver
What's the profit margin?
Don't know.
I would expect the ice cream to be higher than you could buy it at Baskin Robins!
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  #5  
Old 06-17-2006, 09:06 PM
drachillix drachillix is offline
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Originally Posted by spingears
Don't know.
I would expect the ice cream to be higher than you could buy it at Baskin Robins!
Alot of this stuff probably runs 15-20% of typical retail price. So if you sell an ice cream sandwich for $1.00 the company paid about 20 cents for it. Find a good neighborhood with lots of kids playing outside and you can do $20-30 in sales on every block. Driver probably gets another 20-30 cents on the dollar in sales. A good area could probably easily bring in $40 in commissions in a couple hours.

Those trucks also don't have very large engines and are probably quite fuel efficent even mosying around the neighborhoods.
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  #6  
Old 06-17-2006, 09:07 PM
biometricks biometricks is offline
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I grew up in the city and the ice cream truck guy also sold us fireworks (the good stuff... you know the ones that are illegal to sell in most states, especially to 8 year olds). So... I guess there are ways to earn a few extra bucks.
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  #7  
Old 06-17-2006, 09:10 PM
hawksgirl hawksgirl is offline
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Originally Posted by biometricks
I grew up in the city and the ice cream truck guy also sold us fireworks (the good stuff... you know the ones that are illegal to sell in most states, especially to 8 year olds). So... I guess there are ways to earn a few extra bucks.
Yeah, thats where my little brother got those stink bombs a few years back... I hope that ice cream man has a special circle of hell for that one.
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  #8  
Old 06-17-2006, 09:11 PM
tofergregg tofergregg is offline
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Originally Posted by Anaamika
You drive it from one neighborhood to the next, never taking it to highway speed. Then you drive very slowly through the neighborhood.
Inspection and registration when needed.

How much wear-and-tear could that put on the car?
I believe this would put a fair amount of wear and tear on the engine and other parts. Nobody ever sells a car with an ad that says, "Mostly city driving!" True, you are going slow, but you're using the brakes all the time and you're constantly shifting in low gears (but they undoubtedly have automatic transmissions).

-Tofer
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  #9  
Old 06-17-2006, 09:37 PM
Jake4 Jake4 is offline
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Originally Posted by biometricks
I grew up in the city and the ice cream truck guy also sold us fireworks (the good stuff... you know the ones that are illegal to sell in most states, especially to 8 year olds). So... I guess there are ways to earn a few extra bucks.
Not to mention all the drug dealers.

"Hey Big Perm....I mean, Big Worm..."
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  #10  
Old 06-17-2006, 09:38 PM
biometricks biometricks is offline
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Originally Posted by hawksgirl
Yeah, thats where my little brother got those stink bombs a few years back... I hope that ice cream man has a special circle of hell for that one.
I often wish I had a sister to annoy with stuff like this
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  #11  
Old 06-17-2006, 09:42 PM
biometricks biometricks is offline
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Originally Posted by Jake4
Not to mention all the drug dealers.

"Hey Big Perm....I mean, Big Worm..."
Yeah, I'm pretty sure he would have sold me crack had I asked. Definatley ain't just batman ice cream pops in those coolers.
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  #12  
Old 06-18-2006, 08:41 AM
Mr. Goob Mr. Goob is offline
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My friends owned an ice cream store (the divorce wrecked it.) I forget the direct numbers but the profit margin on soft serve is huge.
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  #13  
Old 06-18-2006, 09:10 AM
zuma zuma is offline
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Back in the 70s, they sold more than ice cream. At least my ice cream truck driver did...
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  #14  
Old 06-18-2006, 09:16 AM
zuma zuma is offline
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So to answer your question, ice cream drivers don't make money selling ice cream. They sell other things. Ice cream is probably break-even.
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  #15  
Old 06-18-2006, 09:17 AM
don't ask don't ask is offline
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The guy who used to own the soft serve shop near where I work once told me that he made more profit out of his truck on weekends than he did from the shop. The way he explained it the overheads in driving a truck around are chickenfeed compared to renting and staffing a shop.
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  #16  
Old 06-18-2006, 09:35 AM
hajario hajario is offline
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The real answer is that the profit margin on the crap they sell out of those trucks is huge. I had a friend who drove a truck in the 80's. The set-up was much like kawaiitentaclebeast described. The owners had something like 20 trucks. They also wholesaled their products to liquor stores and such.

I went down to the lot with my friend one time and it was quite an education. This was in San Diego. Ice cream men are quite the characters. Even with all of the theft, you could tell that the owners were making a killing while the drivers were barely scraping by. At least one guy was selling pot out of his truck. One guy stole one of the trucks full of product and drove it to Arizona before he was caught. I thought that was hilarious. Those trucks topped out 35 miles per hour. Another guy got really high one day and as a lark drove his truck around a cemetary on a Sunday with the music blaring. If I had kids I wouldn't let them within ten feet of one of those fucking trucks.
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  #17  
Old 06-19-2006, 11:44 AM
ZenBeam ZenBeam is offline
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Former Ice Cream Truck driver here. I did this one summer. Hours were long, and pay was low. The way it worked where I was, I was an independent contractor. I "bought" the product from the owner, and marked it up 50 percent over what I sold it for. "Bought" is in quotes because everything was tallied up at the end of the day, I didn't really give him money at the start of the day. I paid for my own gas. I think I may have rented the truck also, for some nominal amount. I worked it out, and (since I wasn't selling drugs on the side) I only made about $2.50 an hour for the time I was in the truck, which was under minimum wage at the time (1982). The only upsides were I was outside, rather than in some greasy fast-food kitchen.

The owner apparently did pretty well. I remember he drove a corvette or porsche or some such car.
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  #18  
Old 06-19-2006, 11:47 AM
ZenBeam ZenBeam is offline
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That should be "... marked it up 50 percent over what I bought it for..."
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  #19  
Old 06-19-2006, 05:15 PM
Enright3 Enright3 is online now
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And for you Steve Buscemi fans out there: The Trees Lounge Wherein Steve is an icecream truck driver.
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  #20  
Old 06-19-2006, 05:33 PM
pkbites pkbites is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drachillix
Find a good neighborhood with lots of kids playing outside
Kids Schmids. I'm 45 and I bought a Popsicle brand snow cone from the ice cream dude not 45 minutes ago. I've noticed that there are alot more adults around here (read: middle aged men mowing their lawn) buying than kids. (hey, we gots more money than kids ).

What I see the ice cream trucks do is park in a stationary place, like a park, at a strategic time of day, instead of driving around blaring that obnoxiously loud music.
I figure that cuts fuel consumption a bit.
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  #21  
Old 06-19-2006, 06:22 PM
Jayrot Jayrot is offline
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I'd guess that most ice cream dudes have (probably crap) day jobs and just need some extra cash every week. There aren't a lot of (even minimum wage) jobs that'll schedule you for just 6-10 hours/wk. Probably one of the least annoying ways of earning an extra $50 a week.

My question: is it federal law that all ice cream trucks play Scott Joplin's The Entertainer?
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  #22  
Old 06-19-2006, 08:13 PM
pkbites pkbites is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jayrot
My question: is it federal law that all ice cream trucks play Scott Joplin's The Entertainer?
That and that goofy tune from the old Farmer Vic show. Da doo doo da doo da da da da doo, doo da doo da doo...!GAH! That tune get's stuck in my head for hours after they pass by!

And do they have to play them so G*d d*amn loud? I don't need to know that the dilly wagon is 20 blocks away! Some of them actually drown out the sound of a siren from a police car that's in the same vicinity! Some municipalities around here passed ordinances regulating ice cream truck speakers. GOOD!
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  #23  
Old 06-19-2006, 08:25 PM
tofergregg tofergregg is offline
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Originally Posted by pkbites
And do they have to play them so G*d d*amn loud? I don't need to know that the dilly wagon is 20 blocks away!
Well, the intensity of the sound drops off as the square of the distance away from the truck, so you really need to crank it up to reach that last bit of the neighborhood where you might tempt a kid to come running and make you break even or go ahead for the day. I'd suggest marketing a mosquito siren, but as pkbites said, adults make up a pretty good share of the sales, I'm sure.

-Tofer
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  #24  
Old 06-21-2006, 09:12 AM
elmwood elmwood is offline
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How about the Mexican ice cream carts?

When I lived in Denver, every night a Hispanic man would walk down the street, pushing a two-wheeled cart, accompanied by the sound of jingling bells, and emblazoned with hand-pained images of ice cream cones and Good Humor bars. Every ten seconds or so, the cart pusher would bellow a grainy "EHHHHHHH!" I NEVER, repeat NEVER saw anyone buy anything from one of the Mexican ice cream carts, anywhere I saw them.
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  #25  
Old 06-21-2006, 09:18 AM
An Arky An Arky is offline
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Dunno about the profit margin, but the ice cream truck has a profound effect on children. My kids have practically become a cargo cult for the ice cream truck because one came to our block once.
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  #26  
Old 06-21-2006, 11:09 AM
gigi gigi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elmwood
When I lived in Denver, every night a Hispanic man would walk down the street, pushing a two-wheeled cart, accompanied by the sound of jingling bells, and emblazoned with hand-pained images of ice cream cones and Good Humor bars. Every ten seconds or so, the cart pusher would bellow a grainy "EHHHHHHH!" I NEVER, repeat NEVER saw anyone buy anything from one of the Mexican ice cream carts, anywhere I saw them.
The Coco Helado trucks in The Bronx and elsewhere in NYC seemed to do fine.
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  #27  
Old 06-21-2006, 11:48 AM
WhyNot WhyNot is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elmwood
How about the Mexican ice cream carts?

When I lived in Denver, every night a Hispanic man would walk down the street, pushing a two-wheeled cart, accompanied by the sound of jingling bells, and emblazoned with hand-pained images of ice cream cones and Good Humor bars. Every ten seconds or so, the cart pusher would bellow a grainy "EHHHHHHH!" I NEVER, repeat NEVER saw anyone buy anything from one of the Mexican ice cream carts, anywhere I saw them.
They do very well here on the north side of Chicago. La Monarca Paleteria on Clark Street is the hub of the carts - they rent the carts, both the push kind and the bicycle kind, and sell the ice cream. If I (an English only speaking white chick) go into the store, I can get a dozen bars for around $8. I'm sure it's a bit cheaper for a Hispanic guy also renting a cart and getting more than a dozen bars. They sell them off the carts for a buck a bar, last I knew.

They have the cleanest store I've ever seen. Seriously, I would consider getting pierced or having minor surgery performed in there. Their bars are so yummy, and tend to the fruit end of the confection spectrum - mango, banana, guava, coconut (with real coconut!) leche, that sort of thing.
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  #28  
Old 06-21-2006, 12:06 PM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jayrot
My question: is it federal law that all ice cream trucks play Scott Joplin's The Entertainer?
The jangly tune that is indelibly associated in my mind with ice-cream vans and hot childhood summers is Greensleeves.

We still have an ice-cream van (note: not "truck") come round our way, and the driver clearly has a pathological hatred of children. Good choice of job, fella! (Although thinking about it, the hatred may not have existed before he took the job...)
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  #29  
Old 06-21-2006, 12:13 PM
edwino edwino is offline
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The Mexican ice cream carts do well around Houston as well -- they are based around La Paleteria near Bellaire and Renwick. Again, like WhyNot, that store is immaculately clean and sells good mixed fruit/yogurt/honey concoctions that I used to get and try to shove in my daughter while she was dribbling strawberry paleta all over herself. Their mango, tres leches, and vanilla/raisin paletas are my favorites, though.
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  #30  
Old 06-21-2006, 12:13 PM
Honey Honey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colophon
The jangly tune that is indelibly associated in my mind with ice-cream vans and hot childhood summers is Greensleeves.
The ice cream trucks around here play "It's a Small World".
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  #31  
Old 06-21-2006, 12:55 PM
caveman caveman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elmwood
How about the Mexican ice cream carts?

When I lived in Denver, every night a Hispanic man would walk down the street, pushing a two-wheeled cart, accompanied by the sound of jingling bells, and emblazoned with hand-pained images of ice cream cones and Good Humor bars. Every ten seconds or so, the cart pusher would bellow a grainy "EHHHHHHH!" I NEVER, repeat NEVER saw anyone buy anything from one of the Mexican ice cream carts, anywhere I saw them.
That sounds like the paleta dude! We had one that would often circle the block off of east Riverside Dr here in Austin when I was in college. It was a bit hit & miss, since he spoke little English and I spoke no Spanish, and the illustration on the wrappers were less than helpful, but I did get some good strawberry-ish bars, and plenty of other flavors that almost always tasted a bit banana-y. There's now a store in a strip mall near where I live now that sells paletas, all nicely labelled in both languages. Kinda takes the adventure out of it, though.

My new favorite frozen mexican treat, though, are respas. They're basically shaved ice, and vastly superior to a mere snocone.
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