Nothing beats the summer heat like a frozen treat.
For Amber Erickson, the sound of an ice cream truck brings back fond memories of her childhood. Erickson grew up in Davenport, Florida, where she says ice cream trucks were commonly found on the city streets. The idea of operating a mobile ice cream stand was planted three years ago when her sister tagged her in a Facebook post about an ice cream truck. This past spring, the seed finally sprouted.
“It (the post) came up on my Facebook memories this year,” Erickson said. “I looked at my brother and said, ‘I can sell ice cream; everybody loves ice cream,’ and that's how it started.”
Within a month, Erickson put her plan into action and purchased a van, obtained a small business license, picked a business name, purchased frozen treats from a vendor and figured out the best way to keep the treats cold.
Erickson hit the streets with Martha Ann’s Ice Cream Van on June 1. A week later, she added a speaker to play classic ice cream truck music which turned out to be the key to the van’s success.
“That was the bread winner -- the speaker. The first 15 minutes I was out with that speaker, I was getting flagged down; it made a huge difference,” Erickson said. “It’s was the best investment I’ve gotten out of the whole business, that jingle definitely gets everybody.”
Martha Ann’s Ice Cream Van roams the streets of Mitchell and the surrounding area from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Customers can request certain address stops by contacting Erickson by phone or Facebook message. If Erickson receives no requests, she typically spends a half-hour driving the streets of the city.
She said the response to the mobile ice cream van has been amazing.
“I have regulars that message me every single day, ‘Can you stop by this address?’ or ‘We’ll see you at 6,” Erickson said.
She also drives to Ethan, Mount Vernon and Alexandria to deliver ice cream and joy to the communities and hopes to add more towns to her route in the future.
“All these little towns they ask, ‘Can you please come here,’ and I will once I hear (from the city government),” Erickson said. “I want to be out there traveling South Dakota.”
In future summers, Erickson hopes to have a step-up truck that is larger and more recognizable, along with perhaps a small shop where people can buy products in bulk.
With over 40 different frozen treats, the mobile ice cream van has something for everyone. The side of the van displays the ice cream, sherbet, water ice and popsicles options available to customers.
Customers are greeted by Erickson or one of her four children who help her run the mobile ice cream van.
“I love telling people have a good day,” said Trynidy, Erickson’s 11-year-old daughter. The children help Erickson pack up the car’s two coolers, sell the frozen treats and put the inventory away every day.
“It’s been amazing, way better than what I ever planned which makes me and everyone around happy,” Erickson said. “The kids and the excitement that I get out of everybody is my favorite, 100 percent.”
Since everything the van sells is prepackaged, Erickson only needed a small business license as a sole proprietor to get the business up and running. Her vendor, Big Bell Ice Cream Company out of Minneapolis, supplies her with all the cold treats, and dry ice keeps the products from melting during the hot summer days.
“I am the only truck from Big Bell in the state of South Dakota. They have no other ice cream vehicles,” Erickson said. “It’s an untouched market and I did not think it was going to be as easy as it was, but I’m glad.”
The business name sake is after Erickson’s husband’s mother, who died when he was a year and a half old.
“I thought Amber’s Ice Cream didn’t sound good,” Erickson said. “Then I went into the bedroom and saw Martha’s picture and I was like, ‘Martha Ann’s, that’s what I’m going to name it.’”
The mobile ice cream van travels around 60 miles a day selling ice cream to regulars, day cares, birthday parties, factory workers, and attending several events around the region including the Coborn’s Watermelon Eating Contest, and Erickson’s own benefit for sucide awareness for veterans at the end of the summer.
Come the fall when the temperatures start to cool, Martha Ann’s Ice Cream Van will retire for the winter but Erickson said not to worry, the van will be back next summer.
“It’s a lot of fun and you see all these kids go, ‘Oh my gosh, ice cream,’ and it brightens up my day for sure,” she said. “I’ve had kids chasing me down the road behind my van; I’ve had cars chasing me, following me to stop me for their kids. People like ice cream. It’s great and I love it.”