Author: Joseph Byrnes, BSU student
I sat down with Stephen Burt, owner of Burt’s Ice Cream, and learned quite a bit about his ice cream truck business. Burt’s Ice Cream began in 2009, when Stephen ran the business part-time. He hoped to grow the business and be able to retire from his corporate job in sales. Burt said that he was tired of the commute into the city and he hated working under someone else. When asked what made him choose this line of business, Stephen reflected on his youth. His first job was at Mad Martha’s, a local ice cream shop on Martha’s Vineyard where he grew up; “I guess it’s just in my blood” he joked.
Every spring, Stephen prepares for the summer by inspecting his trucks and registering with the towns he wants to operate in. This process usually takes a few months and should be started in February if he wishes to have the trucks on the road and making sales by late Spring. The competition is the toughest part of the business for Burt’s, but When asked what sets his company apart from the others like it, Stephen said that he prides himself on offering friendly customer service, he enjoys creating connections with his customers and, in turn has made many friends out of repeat customers around town. Stephen said that he prides himself on customer experience, and that is why you should choose his ice cream over someone else’s. Stephen also told me that word of mouth is the only form of marketing his business has, he believes that providing good service that stands out from the rest year after year will bring the right customers.
Stephen has gone between having one and multiple trucks a couple of times during his ten years in business. This season, Burt’s will have two trucks on the road around the South Shore, Stephen will be in one and his son will be in the other. I asked Stephen where he would like to see the company in the next couple of years. Although he joked that he would like to really retire and move to Florida, he seemed to be happy with what he has going right now. The idea of a big expansion is not so appealing to him, he would prefer to keep the company small and personable. It was a pleasure to talk with Stephen, and I learned that being an ice cream man is a lot more work than meets the eye.