The Coolhaus ice cream truck has come a long way since its inception three years ago: from selling architecture-inspired ice cream out of a refurbished postal truck, founders Natasha Case and Freya Estreller now command a fleet of eight trucks in four cities, as well as a Los Angeles storefront and a cart stationed on Central Park West across from the American Museum of Natural History.
As the third ever employee on Coolhaus' payroll, Truck Manager Lisa Dring has been with Coolhaus since its ice-cream-out-of-a-postal-truck days, slinging its famed sandwiches from Coachella to bar mitzvahs, and has noticed some key differences vending between the coasts.
"The foot traffic in New York definitely makes a big difference—you get people from all walks of life—in LA, things are much more social. We would tweet our location and people would drive from miles away to find us. Here, people can just walk by; there's definitely more of a sense of discovery with the customers in New York."
Lisa collects the Coolhaus truck from its Greenpoint commissary by 7:00 AM in order to secure a coveted spot on Union Square East by 8:00. The street is usually lined with food trucks by mid-morning, even though some vendors don't open for business until 11:00 in the afternoon. Shifts can range from 8-12 hours for truck managers, but Lisa isn't fazed by the long hours, content to dish up treats like creamy Banana Mezcal and Honey gelato, tangy Patron Blueberry Mojito, or her personal favorite: Dirty Mint Chip between Red Velvet Dark Chocolate cookies.
"We have some really interesting flavors: an Olive Oil and Rosemary ice cream, and also a Brown Butter and Candied Bacon gelato, but sometimes, people just want vanilla—it's still our best seller. Sorbets do well in the summer too. We're constantly introducing new flavors, but we want to make sure the quality is always there."
But working on the truck isn't all potato chip cookies and Pistachio Truffle gelato. Competition in the mobile food scene is stiff anywhere, and in New York, it skews toward cutthroat. Natasha revealed that everything from slurs, threats, and even lit cigarettes have been hurled at her employees by vendors looking to muscle Coolhaus out of a prime parking spot. However, Lisa insists on taking the good with the bad.
"I love working on the truck. I think we're pretty lucky, all the vendors on this street are really sweet, they'll help me park and everything. If there's ever a disagreement, all you can do is be as nice as you can be...and if that doesn't work, give them ice cream!"
Big upcoming developments for Coolhaus include the launch of their own chocolate bar line, as well as a brick-and-mortar presence in New York City. Coolhaus' ice cream sandwiches are already in stores at Southern California Whole Foods Markets, and Natasha and Freya are looking to explore similar strategic partnerships to grow the brand. And while Lisa is excited for the company's growth in New York City, she seems committed to Coolhaus' mobile efforts.
"A store in New York would be really cool, but I don't know if I'd prefer working there. I'm just a truck girl, I love it up here!"