Thursday Aug 20 2009
Community Portrait: Serving ice cream a real treat for truck driver
By: Michael Kirby, Journal Correspondent
Travis Thomsen probably has the best job in the world. Remember when you were a child and the sound of the ice cream man coming down your street made that summer day just that much more fun? The best sound in the world had to be that little musical ditty that could be heard in the distance getting louder as it got closer as the white truck came into view. Decorated with brightly colored decal pictures of ice cream bars pasted on the side of the square truck, it was a menu board of sorts, making the treat choice just a little harder. The choices might have changed but the feeling of the ice cream man on your street is still something special. Thomsen is an ice cream man. He drives through area neighborhoods making children smile. In his ice cream truck, with that traditional music blaring from the speaker, groups of youngsters in neighborhoods all over town run in his direction as he comes down the street. How much fun could that be? Thomsen became an ice cream man after completing two years in college learning how to operate heavy equipment and studying agriculture. Getting trained just as the economy took its downturn, Thomsen found the job market dried up. His brother-in-law John Smith had just purchased All American Vending, an ice cream truck established in the area for over 18 years. The timing was right and Thomsen began running the routes in the Auburn area, and has really come to enjoy being an ice cream man. “The most asked question I get from people is do I get tired of the non-stop music?” he said. Thomsen has a special ice cream man music box pre-loaded with 30 traditional ice cream man tunes that play over a loud speaker on the roof. “I actually stop hearing the music after about 45 minutes,” said Thomsen. Thomsen, a single dad, works Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the best days for ice cream sales. Smith, his brother-in-law, works Wednesdays and Thursdays. “It’s hard to say why sales are better on one day over another,” Thomsen said. “We’re closed on Monday and Tuesday because sales just aren’t that good on those days. But Fridays and the weekend are just great. Ice cream sales are unpredictable — you would think that sales would be great when it’s hot, but when it’s over 100 degrees, it’s too hot to come out and many kids are at the pool.” Thomsen hits all the area suburban neighborhoods, where lots of kids live. Areas around parks are good for sales. Baseball and soccer tournaments are great. He carries 35 different kinds of ice cream treats on his truck packed in dry ice to keep the desserts real cold. In August, one of the best months for sales, Thomsen sells between 150-200 frozen treats a day. He mixes up the neighborhoods, not hitting the same areas too often to keep it special. Old standbys like Missiles and regular Popsicles, are the least expensive treats nowadays, with specialty treats like SpongeBob bars and Choco Tacos topping the high end. Still on the truck are the old favorites — Snickers, juice bars, Fudgsicles, and Orange Dreams, what used to be called 50-50s. “It’s a great job, making kids happy,” Thomsen said. “It only takes 50 cents to make a kid happy.” In some areas Thomsen encounters children that can’t afford a treat and he always carries gum or some other small treat that he can give them so they don’t feel left out. “There’s just something different about buying and eating ice cream from an ice cream truck, the kids get so excited,” he said.