Who’d ever think the birth of McMansions would lead to the death of the ding-a-ling ice cream truck?
Phil Topalian would.
In 2002, just before his senior year at Fairfield Prep, the Westport native needed a summer job. Searching the papers, he spotted a tiny ad. Blue Sky Bar was looking for ice cream truck drivers.
Phil called. He was intrigued, and gave it a shot.
Did Blue Sky have any qualms renting a truck to a 17-year-old?
“I guess not,” he says.
After all, the teenager committed to the standard deal. He paid a rental fee — about $500 a week in the peak July-August season. He bought all the ice cream — another $500 or so a week. And he paid for all his gas.
“I had to clear more than $1,000 a week to make a profit,” he recalls.
For the 1st couple of years Phil — and his younger brother Tom, who helped out even before he had his drivers license — learned the business.
By the 3rd year the Blue Sky owner was in debt. He was selling his trucks cheaply. Phil — who had saved most of his money — jumped at the chance. He bought a truck for $15,000.
Phil & Tom Ice Cream was born.
They realized that taking their truck to special events was a lot more profitable than driving randomly around town looking for customers. They began “ice cream catering” — for parties, cookouts and corporate functions.
They took out ads, and posted flyers around town. They now have a customer list of 1,000.
“Driving around is archaic,” Phil says. “These days Westport doesn’t have small, intimate neighborhoods with houses close to the street and kids playing outside.
“Now, with triple pane glass, you can’t hear the ice cream truck. There are no set schedules for people to be home. And people just aren’t outside.”
Far better to spend every Thursday at 3 p.m. at Tauck World Discovery — something Phil and Tom have done for 6 years — and be hired for events like last week’s Coleytown Elementary 5th-grade social.
There is 1 place Phil and Tom can’t go, however: the beach. Joey’s by the Shore has that concession contract.
“If I can see the beach from my truck, I’m too close,” Phil says. “Even the side streets, that’s pushing my luck.”
But Phil likes Joey, and the 2 have a good relationship. Phil sells Joey his overstock at the end of each season, and Joey refers inquiries about private parties to Phil.
“He pays a lot of money for his exclusive right to vend there,” Phil says. “I understand.”
One site Phil has moved into is the Levitt Pavilion. At the invitation of director Freda Welsh, he and Tom brought freezers, coolers and refrigerators. They painted the once-dilapidated concession shack, and made it inviting.
Wednesdays — kids’ nights — are particularly popular. “What a blast,” Phil says. “We’re mobbed to the point I can’t move.”
The most popular flavors for kids, he notes, are Fruity Shots, SpongeBob SquarePants, and a giant Cookies and Cream cup.
Adult tastes are more prosaic: toasted almond and chocolate eclair.
His ice cream truck put Phil through John Jay College — both undergrad and masters. He’s looking for a job in law enforcement.
Tom is a nursing student at Sacred Heart. This summer he’s doing a hospital rotation in South Carolina. For the 1st time since he and Tom rented that Blue Sky Bar truck, he won’t be selling ice cream.
But Phil is. And ice cream lovers all over Westport — well, everywhere except the beach — think that’s very, very cool.
These guys are great. We’ve used them a few times and they’re always a big hit with everyone.
And they really are a couple of nice guys who know the value of good customer service.
When Phil and Tom have made their millions and retired to Nassau, I want to buy the truck from them! It is a perfect replica of the good ole days in Westport when we heard the “Good Humor Man” coming down the street and we kids would make a beeline for the street! Normally it was to the yelps of our mothers: “Not before dinner!!” Great story, Daniel, of the initiative of our youth and good ole honest capitalism.
Do they need the permission of the two angry mom’s to sell ice cream in Westport? Suppose some unsuspecting child eats some of this coloric and fat infused substance? Are hysterical mothers picketing the truck?
The two angry Mom’s are going to be hugely pissed because you are trying to bust on them, but yet you can’t spell CALORIC correctly….. so yeah they are going to be angry…. try spell check next time
I do think the Jeffxs meant colonic not coloric for high density sugar does tend to bind you up but as always, the Dude Abides
I believe the distinction is that one has the freedeom of choice to buy from Phil and Tom while they may not in our public schools. Also, I would tend to believe that the two young capitalists (hurray!) need a permit to sell food and thus, would be restricted as to what they could and could not sell.
Perhaps Jeffxs meant the color of the ice cream?
Last seen, there was a vast array of 30- something females, with baseball caps and ponytails, wearing flip flops, clam digger pants and dragging their Golden Retrievers by lease and baby in stroller, on Colony Drive where the Good Humor truck resides. Whether this is merely a parade of Westport’s finest Stepford mothers or an attack on sugar laden, high fructose distribution is unknown at this point. Stay tuned!
Dick: Thanks for the spelling lesson. Next time I will use spell check. I don’t want angry pedants as well as the food Nazis to be upset. BTW Dick, it’s “Moms”. Nice try though. LOL
Thanks Jeffy extra small… Don’t want any one thinking your a bigger tool than you are, but I’m a dick anyway.
Actually it is “you’re” vice your. Sorry, a natural pedant. It is nice to know Extra Small can laugh though.
Dick should quit while he is behind.
We can relax, the stampede of Stepford “Moms,” identical in all respects including the glassy stare of boredom, were not seeking sugar retribution on Colony but instead the Garden Show. They were a day late. “Busy” yesterday in the Hamptons.
Mr Jeffxs uses “mom’s” in his comment at 2:42.
Mr. Stein replies at 2:49 to point out a spelling error while repeating the “mom’s”
mistake first introduced by Mr. Jeffxs.
Then Mr Jeffxs corrects Mr. Stein with: “BTW Dick, its “moms”. Nice try though. LOL”
LOL? I agree.
Bob: Dick made his own mistake; pedantry. You reapeated his mistake. I never posted “Mom’s” nor have I ever tried to correct either spelling errors or grammatical errors such as those you offer up prior to Dick’s retort. Right back at you.
Jeffy I have never gone by Dick except for two friends father’s. They are of the generation that Dick was the norm. Either way my punctuation has always been my short fall, but not my spelling. As a previous writer posted, maybe be you were trying to spell colonic?, which in term I think you and your brain do need.
Thanks for the free advice Dick. I assume it is worth what I paid for it. If your grammar is deficient, perhaps you should give up on the pedantry and try and stick to substance, if you have any.
Jeffy integrity is what I am about. I’m also about not hiding behind monikers or your silly commentary that you find to be learned. While others and myself find it lacking to say the least. Have a nice day.
Dick I have never characterized my commentary. Such efforts seem to stimulate you much more than me. I expected that you and the rest of the MSM’s would find any commentary in opposition to your own twaddle disturbing. The homogeneity of opinions in The People’s Republic of Joseloff is what prompted me to comment in the first place.
Well so much for the capitalist adventures of Phil and Tom. We now have the sophmoric interaction of two educated adults. Jeffxs, please stop making everything personal. This blog is to make people THINK and not to insult everyone who disagrees with you. In addtion, the homogeneity of opinions does not make such wrong.
What is msm
Jeffrey’s name for Westporters. Not exactly flattering as you might imagine.
Innocent you are not. You are sanctimonious. Go back through the thread and see who started the ad hominem arguments, then get back to me.
You are full of anger, Jeffxs. I feel sorry for you. But I don’t have the energy or inclination to debate you. Life is good. Try to enjoy it.
Innocent: Now you are patronizing. Typical.