Ice cream lady celebrates 35 years of making kids happy
The next time you hear the sound of an ice cream truck, think of Janice Stewart, who started her mobile snow cone/ice cream truck business on Aug. 7, 1983.
“I was 28 or 29,” Stewart said. “I was nursing my sick father and I needed something else to do. I wanted to find a truck and I finally got one of those little mail trucks and it’s worked out great. It’s big enough to hold what I need and small enough to drive.”
During the 35 years she’s been driving the truck, Stewart has held a variety of other jobs. Sometimes as many as five at a time.
“I’ve been a hostess in a restaurant, worked in a day care, had the concession stand at the swimming pool. Come to think of it, I don’t know how I did it all. But my favorite has always been the snow cone truck.”
Stewart, who has three adult children and seven grandchildren, said she doesn’t get to see her family very often and feels that emotional loss.
“When I go out in the truck and the kids come out to get a snow cone or ice cream, just seeing them and how happy they are makes me feel better,” she said. “They bring so much joy to me.”
Stewart usually starts making her ice cream rounds in the afternoon. While she says she doesn’t have a set route, she does know which neighborhoods are more likely to have children whose parents or grandparents are most likely to buy an icy or creamy treat.
“The kids are so excited when they come out,” Stewart said. “They jump up and down. They say ‘I love you.’ There’s no word to describe the feeling I get when they come out to the truck.”
No matter how much she enjoys her customers, Stewart admits that owning her mobile ice cream truck sometimes presents a challenge.
“There are days when it might be easier to say, ‘I just don’t feel like going out today.’ You’ve got to be really self-motivated to go out every day no matter what,” Stewart said.
“Go out” she does, every day except when it’s snowy and the streets are slick.
“I go out six or seven days a week. People come out in the rain, carrying great big umbrellas. They come out when it’s hot and when it’s cold and I want to be there so they won’t be disappointed,” she said. “I love kids and I love older people and I like seeing them.”
Stewart said her business has been good for her, providing not only income but also an opportunity to serve her customers in a unique way. She provides photographs of her customers to the adults who accompany them.
“I take pictures of my customers and I give copies of the pictures to their parents or grandparents. I’ve started a book about driving the truck, but I don’t know when I’ll have time to finish it,” she said.
It won’t be anytime soon as Stewart has no plans to retire.
“I love doing this,” she said. “I love my customers, whether they are little kids or whether they are older people. You never get too old for ice cream.”
Dorothy N. Fowler can be reached at education@ hobbsnews.com .