Mister Softee has a special place in the hearts of Americans. The jingle— “The cream-ies-t dream-i-est soft ice cream you get from Mis-ter Sof-tee”— is so ingrained in our brains, and reward system, that it works like Ivan Pavlov’s bell. The jingle sounds and the saliva glands of men, women and children get to work.
There are many Mister Softee trucks throughout Brooklyn, but one driver in Park Slope, with a route on Seventh Avenue and around Prospect Park, has been serving that soft swirl for 11 years.
Sammy, a Mister Softee ice cream truck driver for just over a decade in Park Slope, has been working hard these past two days.
But, when summer gets too hot business is not as good as you may think.
“When it’s too hot, over 85 degrees, our business is not the best,” Sammy explained. “People tend to stay inside or go to the beach during heat waves. You think on a scorcher that people would flock to us, but when it’s super hot, like this week, my business suffers.”
He starts his day at noon and makes his last swirl around 10 p.m. His season usually starts in April or May.
But, this year, like last year, had too much rain during the early spring. Sammy started in the last weeks of April, but he would be out one day and then couldn’t go out the next because of the rain or cold weather.
But, he said business has been good recently and he’s been back in his groove, serving regulars who he has known since his early days in the Slope in 2001.
“I’ve watched little kids grow into young men, little girls grow into young women,” Sammy said while parked outside of P.S. 321 on Seventh Avenue, between First and Second streets. “I know the neighborhood and the neighborhood knows me. It has been nice getting to know everyone for the past decade.”
Two regular customers, Oliver Hagerty and his mother stepped up to Sammy’s truck late Wednesday afternoon as the mercury was rising past 93 degrees and ordered a vanilla soft serve swirl on a cone.
“I love ice cream!” Oliver said while holding the cone and licking the vanilla, which was quickly melting into tiny streams of white cream as it ran down the cone.
“I might even get one tomorrow,” Oliver said, who is 9-and-a-half years old, while he looked at his mom for approval.
Oliver’s mom said that they have been coming to Sammy for about seven years.
Sammy, who was listening to the mother and son from Park Slope, said that some regulars come everyday.
“I have one customer who comes three times a day,” Sammy said, smiling.
Another 9-year-old, Zoe Inbar, stepped up to the truck with a five-dollar bill in her hand and ordered an orange Creamsicle with a friend and her mother.
“I am really, really hot,” Zoe said while she unwrapped the Creamsicle and started eating it. “It’s also an end-of-the-school-year-treat!”
Sammy said that with summer in full swing that he is looking at a long season without a break.
“I am coming out tomorrow, the next day and everyday until the season is over,” Sammy said. “I don’t have vacation in the summer — it’s my time to work!”
“I’ll go on vacation during the winter,” he said, explaining that he’s got to make sure he can make as much money as possible before it’s too cold for ice cream.
After Sammy handed a chocolate swirl on a cone to a woman, the tower of soft serve ice cream wasn’t straight — it was a leaning tower — so he asked for it back, flipped it upside down and gravity straightened it right out.
“My ice cream is guaranteed, if it is not perfect I’ll give them another one,” Sammy said, explaining that if the woman’s cone didn’t straighten out he would have given her another one. “If a kid drops it, I’ll give them another one too. My ice cream cones are perfect.”
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