Summer a busy time for St. Michael ice cream vendor
by Sean Cote
Biking down the street, sitting on the porch, or working in the yard, residents of central Minnesota may hear a familiar tune blasting from a bright green truck slowly ambling down their street on a warm day during the summer.
Running up to it, an upbeat, smiling woman offers to sell a cold, tasty treat from the menu below the side window. Her name is Rebecca Dean, and her truck is named the Ice Cream Machine.
Dean, 35, is in her first year out on her own, and while she is based in St. Michael, she covers St. Cloud, Rogers, Albertville, and many other cities in the central Minnesota area. She has set biweekly routes and is open from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and 1 to 8 p.m. on weekends. She said it is strictly a seasonal job during the summer, and it is typically slow during colder weather and in new neighborhoods. The inside of her truck is quite warm, with only refrigeration available keeping the ice cream from melting.
“The Ice Cream Machine” name was inspired by the Scooby-Doo “Mystery Machine,” and has the same color theme. Dean even tried to get permission from Hanna-Barbera to use the Scooby-Doo brand, but never received a response. She chose to draw inspiration from Scooby-Doo because her sister, who died a few years ago, liked the characters.
When driving slowly down the streets of a particular neighborhood, the truck plays a music box rendition of “Turkey in the Straw.”
The Ice Cream Machine’s menu features mostly Blue Bunny ice cream products, including bomb pops, cones, fudge bars, and ice cream sandwiches, but also offers Gatorade, bottled water and “JonnyPops.” JonnyPops is a Minnesota-based ice cream brand founded by St. Olaf students, the brainchild of Jonathan “Jonny” Jeffrey, cousin of one of the founders who died due to drug addiction. The frozen pops are all natural and gluten free, made from local ingredients, and a portion of the profits from selling them go to the Hazelden Foundation, a Minnesota drug addiction treatment center.
Dean said that while her choice customers are always children, many adults buy ice cream from her. The most popular and highest selling ice cream varies from time to time, from typical bomb pops and fudge bars to JonnyPops and Jolly Rancher snow cones.
Dean said she truly loves her job.
“The people are amazing,” she said, explaining that she loves the concept of the ice cream truck and the fact that people will often chase her in their car, wait at the end of their driveway, or run after her truck as it turns onto another street. “It’s all about the simple pleasures and getting the family together.” However, she also added that, “The most terrifying part of the job is kids crossing the street,” explaining that sometimes kids are not as careful as they should be, especially around drivers speeding in residential areas.
Dean also said she is not really bringing back the old fashioned ice cream trucks that most people don’t see any more. “It’s always been there,” she said, explaining that “some drivers drive too fast or don’t hit every street” during the day. She has sometimes encountered other ice cream trucks on her routes, and sometimes turf wars will erupt over which truck gets to cover that neighborhood. Dean said that trucks should “share the road,” be courteous and relax.
Rebecca Dean can be reached for more information about her business at 320-493-3087 and can be followed on The Ice Cream Truck page on Facebook.