Reflecting on Arizona’s desert led longtime Juneau resident Cathy Mendoza to find a new way to deliver dessert to residents of Alaska’s rainforest.
On a relatively hot summer day a few years ago, Mendoza started thinking about the joy of seeing the ice cream truck in her native Arizona and realized that Juneau lacked a truck to ply the streets during the summer. Rather than wait for someone else to fill the gap, she started her own business — It’s Ice Cream Juneau!
She hit the streets in June, a year later than she expected due to COVID-19, and business has been brisk since.
“Business has been better than I thought,” she said, adding that she plans to operate until September or the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Mendoza usually sells between 200-250 items during each shift, which generally runs from 2 to 7 p.m. each day.
“I’m a late sleeper and no one wants ice cream in the morning,” she said.
Mendoza said she’s not sure when Juneau last had an ice cream truck but understands it was in the late 1980s. As a result, many of her customers are new to the concept. She said a friend suggested the business’s name as a fun play on words that also explain the truck’s purpose.
“We love seeing the kids out,” she said. “That’s the best thing. I see kids bouncing around like Tigger and screaming.”
Here are seven cool facts about Juneau’s ice cream truck:
— The truck is a 2010 Ford transit van that Mendoza decorated herself with help from a kit she ordered online. It includes two freezers in the back, which run on 12-volt batteries. Alaska Marine Lives delivered the van after she purchased it in Arizona.
— The music comes from a portable speaker that plays a pre-selected playlist designed for ice cream trucks. Tunes include “Turkey in the Straw” and “The Entertainer.” She’s hoping to add “Pop Goes the Weasel” to the selection.
— The strawberry shortcake ice cream bar is this summer’s top-seller, so far. If you hope to indulge, act fast — her distributor doesn’t expect more to be available this season.
— It’s a cash-only business. Mendoza said change gathered up hastily from a jar on a desk is always welcome.
— Operating the truck is a family affair. Mendoza said that she usually drives, and one of her five children, her husband, or family friends helps to distribute ice cream to eager customers. Other family members and visiting friends have been called into service as well.
— Safety matters. Mendoza said she is fully vaccinated. She’s adding masks and gloves to her safety protocols this week. She asks parents to help keep kids safe on the sidewalk and out of the road.
— She’s available for private parties and events. Visit the It’s Ice Cream Juneau! Facebook page to inquire.