Businessowner evokes nostalgia with a truck and a song

Published 7:16 am Tuesday, August 25, 2009

There’s nothing like the familiar tinkle of the ice cream truck’s music to remind you that summer’s still here. For Sara Kriehn, though, that music means more than summertime: It’s part of her normal routine and livelihood as she searches for a full-time job.

Kriehn opened the ice cream truck business “Lola’s Ice Cream” earlier this summer in Austin and Mankato. She had long been interested in having an ice cream truck, but the opportunity to pursue a business didn’t come until she was laid off from her job. Now she is able to enjoy a flexible, part-time job while searching for other work.

“I always thought it looked fun,” she said. “When I was a little kid we used to chase down the ice cream truck.”

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In July, Kriehn bought an ice cream truck from Craigslist, the online classified advertising Web site, and drove to Kentucky to get it.

The next step was getting the proper licensing to sell in Austin — a state food permit and a mobile food permit.

Then, after stocking up her freezers, all Kriehn needed was a title (she chose to name it after her 20-month-old daughter, Lola), and she was in business.

“It’s been very fun,” she said. “You meet a lot of different people … and other than the music annoyance, there has been no negativity.”

Kriehn lives in Mankato and tries to come to Austin every other weekend, depending on the weather.

A normal route takes about two hours, during which she visits major parks and streets, selling an average of 50 to 75 items per day.

The truck mainly attracts younger kids, Kriehn said, but occasionally an older person will come up to the truck, enjoying the nostalgia associated with the old-fashioned business.

Her most popular products are ice cream sandwiches, Drumsticks and malt cups, but she also sells bottled water, nuts and chips.

“I’m thinking about putting my menu in Spanish because there’s a large population of Spanish-speaking people in Austin,” Kriehn said.

Her roommate, Marty Brown, also travels in the truck, selling items from the side window.

“It keeps me out of trouble,” he said jokingly. “But it’s a lot of fun.”

Although selling ice cream is “something to fill up my time until I find another job,” Kriehn plans to keep the truck and continue selling each summer. She also hopes to start selling at more festivals around the area.

The small business is definitely a family affair, she said, suggesting that driving the ice cream truck may be something for her mom to do when she retires.

Carter and Dakota Richter are two kids who love getting ice cream from “Lola’s Ice Cream” truck. Carter likes Popsicles and Dakota always gets a Drumstick.

“The color of it is fun,” Dakota said of the multi-colored van. “And I like the music.”