Bladen’s Ice Cream Man
Andy Jones – Owner of &E’s Ice Cream
Hometown: Bladen, NE; Theatre major
“All of the towns are really proud to have an ice cream truck and the kids all smile and run out when they hear the jingle coming. There’s no better job to have.”
The small towns of south central Nebraska share a welcomed visitor that comes, like other delightfully anticipated Midwest summer fare, with the sounds of joyful squeals at the city pool, the rev and go of muscle cars and fire trucks in the local parade … and the distant jingle of a cold treat coming up the street.
When freshman Andy Jones couldn’t find a summer job three years ago, he had to get creative.
“We were cleaning out the garage and found an old PA horn,” Andy said. “We joked that it looked like it needed to be on top of an ice cream truck or something.”
With help from his dad, Bart Jones, and other family members, Andy started work on his small business idea – &E’s Ice Cream.
“The idea for the name was mine,” Andy said. “I thought it was a clever way to spell my name, and, alphabetically, it always comes first on a list of businesses or sponsors.”
Andy started with researching other ice cream businesses, talking to people who had ice cream truck routes in other areas and asking advice from an ice cream distributor in Omaha.
“I got advice from people already in the business. It’s one large, happy family once you get in it.”
Andy and his dad customized a retired USPS Chevy P30 postal truck, which they found on Craig’s List, and installed in it a custom built Nelson Cold Plate freezer that would keep the ice cream chilled at the perfect temperature for long periods of time.
“Ice cream is a self-destructing product,” Andy said. “You can lose an entire freezer full of inventory if it’s not kept at the correct temperature. Once it hits that critical temperature barrier of freezer burn, then it is no good. Most trucks have a house deep freeze wired to the battery, which doesn’t maintain a good temperature. That’s what pushed us to get the Nelson cold plate – they do their job really well.”
Andy hired a caricaturist to create his logo and purchased copyright use of that logo in all his marketing materials. He also created his own jingle to play from the truck, since any other songs he used would be subject to music licensing and restrictions. Listen to his jingle here.
He hired a local Hastings company, Beyke Signs, to transfer his logo onto the truck exterior, and he worked to negotiate an arrangement with his ice cream supplier, Roberts Dairy, to make weekly deliveries of inventory to his front door every Monday morning.
“A lot of people thought it was a bad idea. A lot of people thought it was a great idea. And even the people who thought it was a bad idea still buy ice cream.”
Andy isn’t just Bladen’s Ice Cream Man, he travels a 30-mile radius, which includes the towns of Holstein, Roseland, Blue Hill and Campbell, plus he travels to added locations that may be holding special events, like Kenesaw’s Wasenek Festival and Campbell’s Road Rally, and baseball games and parades. He knows the schedules of each town’s city pool, city-wide garage sales and other special events that may bring out larger numbers of customers on a hot day.
With his truck stocked with frozen novelty favorites, like North Star, Klondike, Good Humor and Popsicle, chips and snacks, soda and candy, Andy is on the road seven days-a-week during the summer – and he does it all on 11 mpg in diesel fuel and at a top speed of 45 mph, without air conditioning.
“I don’t get anywhere fast,” Andy said. “I’m always doing logistics. I know how far I have to go and about how much I have to sell to make a profit.”
Andy does all the maintenance and repair on his truck and works with his dad on making customizations and improvements. They installed an ice machine, when buying ice became too expensive, and they’ve added a volume knob for Andy’s loud speaker, so he can lower the volume when customers approach the truck. Andy says next they’ll be working on an air conditioning system to keep him cool while he’s out on the hottest summer days.
“The business does absorb a lot of the money, but it pays back,” Andy said. “It takes a lot of caring and devotion to get a small business off the ground. You have to keep in mind that, with a small business, you don’t make money every day.”
At the end of each day, Andy tracks inventory and calculates sales, updates records required to maintain food, dairy and sales tax licenses and completes has daily driving log required by the Department of Transportation.
“It keeps me persistent and on task. And it keeps me responsible. If I don’t go out, I don’t make money and somebody somewhere is sad I didn’t come by.”
Andy says being a business owner has also taught him a lot about how he is perceived in and out of the truck.
“One of the first rules I gave myself was that I could not be negative inside the truck. I could not be sour. That would give the wrong impression. Even when I’m not in the truck, I’m still the ice cream man in Bladen. And people trust me, they trust to have their kids come out and buy ice cream from me.”
Andy Jones is the son of HC employee Bart Jones. Andy and his dad spend the winter with a clipboard brainstorming the needs and new ideas for the business. Together, they do as much work as they can do themselves to maintain the truck, add new features and take care of anything else that’s needed.
“It’s a really good bonding experience for my dad and me,” Andy said. “We were already really close, but this makes it even better. Everything with the business is my decision, and I like it that my dad leaves it that way.”