By Janet Stoica
From Charlton to Webster to Sturbridge to the Brookfields, Sue Putis and her Suzy Q’s Ice Cream truck are back on the road, rolling through your neighborhood and even up to your office door.
Cool treats in every shape and size are ready to be purchased from her traveling van. Adult favorites are novelty ice creams like Magnum gold almond, Magnum double caramel, and Magnum double peanut butter. For the kid in all of us, choices include 52 other cold confections, such as Snickers ice cream bars, Choco Tacos (my personal favorite), and Popsicle-brand chunk pineapple shots. Always popular are the ice cream sandwiches, popsicles, and fresh fruit bars. Suzy Q’s also offers the latest frozen, scoop-able Italian ices, flavored with mango, coconut, blue razzberry and pina colada. The slushier, the better.
Sue began researching the ice cream business 15 summers ago. Her husband Bill travelled for his job and she wanted to work but also wanted to be available to her son Zachary and daughter Samantha, who were ages 12 and 10. After locating a custom-made ice cream van that was for sale and travelling to the South Shore to check the van’s readiness, this best-of-both-worlds business venture was born.
After Sue fulfilled her licensing and Board of Health requirements, she put her van on the road, stocked full of summer enjoyment. The best thing about the van was that she could drive Samantha and Zach to their ball games while expanding her business. Of course, she could also watch her kids play sports. Makes you wonder if Samantha and Zachary were able to choose all the ice cream they could ever want!
“It’s been quite the journey,” said Sue, “meeting lots of people, making new friends, and learning a lot. Just last weekend we attended the Spanish Festival in Southbridge and our mango and coconut Italian ices were big sellers.
“The social aspect of this job is what I love about it. Recently, we donated three large buckets of ice cream to the Blessed Backpack Brigade for their Fellowship Meal Ministry, held at the American Legion Post in Webster.
“My husband has been a tremendous asset to the business. He handles all the bookkeeping, stocking, ordering, and inventory tracking. I don’t know what I’d do without him. He also helps with the birthday parties we attend. We’ll bring the birthday child into the van to help with the ice cream and to show them how we handle the counter. It’s a great experience for the children to see how the business is run. The kids love it. We will also visit family reunions, barbecues, class reunions, pool parties, company outings, and just about any other summer event. We’ll help with fundraisers. The business has been good to me.”
The loan she took out to pay for the ice cream van was paid off in just four years.
Sue’s reputation, pleasant demeanor, and big smile are what’s best about meeting her. Companies now phone her to bring her van to their parking lot for their employees’ enjoyment on warm summer days. And why not? The employees appreciate a little break and the employer doesn’t have to provide anything more than a parking spot.
Some of her steady customers include Casella Industries of Auburn, Incom of Southbridge, Karl Storz of Charlton, and Henke-Sass Wolf of Dudley. “Wednesdays are long days,” said Sue, “we’ll start out at 9 a.m. and our day ends at 9 p.m. but it’s all worth it to see the smiles on people’s faces when they get their ice cream. Wednesday is movie night in Charlton at the football field.
“We like to keep company with the smaller venues too,” said Sue. “We visit all the Charlton day care centers and provide incentives for the adults and children. It’s great fun.”
Holly Renna and Lynn Leak help with the window service and soon Sue hopes to put another ice cream van on the road. Suzy Q’s ice cream season runs from April through October.
“When I drive down the street and have my ‘Old MacDonald’ song playing, it’s something to see the kids come out of their houses. We’ve even seen kids burst out their front doors still covered in bubble bath soap. On one occasion, I had a police cruiser pull me over with his lights flashing so he could enjoy a cool treat!”
Reminiscing a bit, Sue said, “the ice cream van business just popped into my head one day and here I am 15 years later still loving what I do.”
During the school year, Sue works as a para-professional in the Special Education Department at Bay Path Regional Vocational High School in Charlton. She’s been with the school for 14 years and enjoys her association with the school as well.
Suzy Q’s Ice Cream truck is based in Charlton. Phone: 508-248-3841, or call Suzyqsicecreamtruck.com.