Six years ago, Felecia Hatcher went running after an ice cream truck in her not-so-running-friendly pair of heels.
As the truck fled, Hatcher’s heels gave way and her face met the ground.
“I’m way too old to be chasing down an ice cream truck,” she thought.
Soon after, Felecia, 29, and her husband, Derick Pearson, 28, had their jobs cut at Nintendo, and that memory of the ice cream truck stuck in her mind — only with a tropical twist. The two started Feverish Ice Cream, making their pops with organic fruits, mixed with coconut milk, rice milk, almond milk and soy milk.
“They’re not like juice pops; they’re really hardy fruit pops. Especially the mango — the mango is like a meal,” said Hatcher.
With the help of family tasters and some creative talent in the kitchen, Feverish now produces 40 flavored pops, including eight spiked with alcohol.
“I like to say, ‘It’s about time the popsicle grew up.’ ”
Indeed, it has. Feverish is one of several new dessert trucks and carts making a splash around South Florida. Dairy-free sorbets. Organic popsicles. Nachos and ice cream. And, yes, booze-spiked pops for those who need an extra pick-me-up. Even the Mr. Good Humor man has been replaced by short-shorts-clad women hanging from poles.
Purchasing a vehicle is one of the many steps in the process. For Aphrodisiac Ice Cream, the truck was a whopping $80,000; Big Kahuna’s was about $50,000. In addition, the Florida Department of Health requires prospective distributers to go through a licensing process. A review application must be filled out, proof of water and wastewater must be shown , a plan of the vehicle drawn to scale, submission of a menu, the completion of a commisionary notification form, and payment of all licensing fees ($150+).
Additionally, if mobile-food-service operators want to attend an event with multiple food trucks, the owners must go through a series of applications found on the miamidade.gov website. This requires more money, leaving many dessert-truck owners to do solo events or be stationed in a particular area.
Tropical fruit sold them on South Florida
At Margaret Pace Park off of Biscayne Bay and Northeast 17th Street, dogs are running, folks are working out, and Tessa Mencia is scooping out sorbet from her brightly painted, eco-friendly Real Sorbet cart. Originally, Tessa, 28, and her husband, Nick Mencia, 28, lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Tessa worked an office job while Nick was employed by a wine sorbet maker and his friend, who was creating a mobile ice-cream company in New York.
The couple began experimenting with recipes in their Brooklyn apartment. “We just started making them for fun with friends and family for dinner parties on a little tabletop,” said Tessa.
As their culinary prowess began to grow, the couple realized South Florida, with its wide array of tropical fruits, was the perfect place to launch Real Sorbet.
“We decided that we wanted to move somewhere in the U.S. where we could get fruit locally and year-round, and really work with a focus on seasonality,” said Tessa, co-owner of Real Sorbet. “South Florida seemed like an awesome place to be because there’s an incredible range of fruits that can grow here.”
Two years later, Real Sorbet is their full-time and fully enjoyed occupation.
The sorbet recipes start with fruit, the dessert’s base. “It’s based on the natural sugar content and the fruit itself and just balancing flavors,” said Tessa. “No corn syrups. No dyes. No sweeteners.”
The couple now sells 30 different flavors, including watermelon lime, jasmine green tea, chocolate tangerine, mango key-lime pie with graham-cracker-crust crumble, Arnold Palmer, strawberry tangerine and mango-lime cayenne.
Along with its electric, emission-free cart, Real Sorbet tries to leave no footprint. “Our cups are made out of sugar cane and wheat straw — so they’re fully biocompostable — and the spoons are made out of corn husk so they’re also biocompostable.”
Aphrodisiac Ice Cream believes in serving ice cream topped with risqué.
Jacqueline Suzanne wears a tiny pair of white shorts and a revealing shirt to match as she climbs up the Aphrodisiac Ice Cream truck to demonstrate how the roof poles are used.
“It was four in the morning, and I was craving ice cream,” said Suzanne, 25. In the midst of this early morning craving, a business idea was formed. “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a place open where there’s stripper poles and girls all over serving ice cream?”
Justin Price, 36, a photographer and Suzanne’s boyfriend, now business partner, thought the idea was brilliant.
“A week later, we started to look for ice-cream trucks all over,” said Suzanne. “We found a place in North Carolina where a guy was having really good deals on ice-cream trucks, so we put all of our savings together and just started the whole business.”
Suzanne went to a car shop and had them install brackets for poles. Now, whenever a customer orders the Aphrodisiac Orgy Sundae, which includes three different flavors of the customer’s choosing and every topping, the Aphrodisiac girls dance on top of the truck.
The names of the flavors go along with the adult theme: “Vanilla quickie, chocolate threesome, and strawberry shag.” And Aphrodisiac sells alcoholic ice creams like lemon drop and raspberry martini.
“Not only are the girls an aphrodisiac, but the flavors that I got have aphrodisiacs in them, naturally,” said Suzanne. “Chocolate is an aphrodisiac, strawberry’s an aphrodisiac we’re not adding any horny goat weed. Maybe one day we can do something crazy like that, but [for now] we get the flavors custom-made.”
Along with the goal of mass-producing their own ice cream, Suzanne has been pondering starring in a reality show.
“I most definitely want a reality show. Each girl has a different personality; Justin and I are breaking up every day; we’ve had issues with some of our girls.
“Who knows? We can be the next Ben & Jerry’s! Taking over the world one ice-cream cone at a time.”
Ice cream & nachos?
For Big Kahuna, neither healthy nor ordinary is their goal.
“We’re not your regular, typical, everyday ice-cream truck,” said Joseph Denise, 40, the owner. “We make ice-cream sandwiches out of Krispy Kreme donuts, we make ice-cream nachos — a pile of nachos just like you would get out at Chili’s or something like that — except for we use different ingredients, [such as] cinnamon nachos, ice cream, all different sauces, chocolate, marshmallow strawberry, whipped cream, stuff like that.”
Denise migrated to South Florida six years ago with the intentions of early retirement. Soon after, he began working in the real-estate business, but when the economy soured, Denise’s career took a nosedive. With prior experience in the ice-cream-truck business from his days in New Jersey, Denise decided to go back to his ice-cream roots.
“When I first opened, I had just shaved ice, novelty ice cream and soft-serve ice cream, and during the winter months when it’s below 75 degrees, nobody buys ice cream in South Florida,” said Denise, 40, who started putting together Big Kahuna in 2008 and launched it within the following year, making it his full-time career.
With South Florida’s wide range of food trucks, Denise figured he would have to create a creative menu to compete.
“I was heavily involved in those food-truck events downtown from the very beginning,” said Denise. “Every other truck that came out was serving ice, so I just tried to keep one step ahead of everybody else and just kept putting out a different product, a better product, a newer product, a more interesting product, and it just catapulted me to where I’m at now.”
Today, Big Kahuna sells waffle ice-cream sandwiches, ice cream and frozen yogurt, 20-plus ice-cream bars, stuffed snow cones (snow cones stuffed with ice cream), 30 flavors of syrup, two different ice-cream flavors daily, and a wide variety of dessert shakes.
“We make over 30 different kinds of gourmet shakes using cheesecake, tiramisu, coconut-cream pie, [and] banana-cream pie.”
The brains behind the baked goods belong to Tammy Denise, 36.
“My wife is the one that makes most of our baked goods that we use — all of our cookies, our cakes, our pies.
“Anything and everything that goes off the truck is from us, made from scratch.”