Here comes SpongeBob ... the ice-cream truck
It's a rare day that Johnny Eatherley doesn't watch a few episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants. The 58-year-old is so hooked he incorporated the cartoon into the ice-cream business he runs with his wife Patricia, Scoops N Cones.
SpongeBob and his friends are on the converted American Chevrolet the couple bought in England. The Eatherleys believe they've helped make them a hit with children.
“The characters are often the first thing children notice when they visit the truck,” Mrs Eatherley said. “They want the ice cream SpongeBob is holding in the picture.”
That's turned out to be a mixed blessing. SpongeBob is holding a soft serve strawberry ice cream, which the Eatherleys don't sell.
“I'm thinking of changing SpongeBob's ice cream to vanilla,” said Mrs Eatherley, “because we have that in soft serve.”
Mr Eatherley has always been an entrepreneur.
In the 1980s he ran a lunch truck on Front Street, Eatherley's Eatery. He then joined his uncle Ed Eatherley in the water trucking business but ice cream was a long-held dream.
“I was 14 when I started helping at Freezer Fresh,” he said. “They hired young school boys and were located near my house in Paget. I learnt how to make Popsicles and rum and raisin ice cream.”
He remembers the first time he saw an ice-cream truck — on a trip to New York as a child. He's been fascinated with them ever since.
“We were the only one running when we went on the road in February,” Mrs Eatherley said. “But now I think there is another one out there. Johnny wanted to do it before now, but you couldn't get a permit.”
The Eatherleys can be hired for birthdays parties and large functions. When they don't have an event, they like to cruise neighbourhoods looking for customers.
The self-sufficient van plays a little jingle as it drives along. “When we drive up you can hear kids yelling ‘ice-cream truck' from a mile away,” Mrs Eatherley said. “You should see their faces. And then everyone disappears for a moment. It's because they are running inside to get their money.”
Added her husband: “I love children. They get so excited and they are usually polite. They really make the business for me. I like working with people and I like serving.”
He admits the job is a bit more challenging than delivering water.
“You're on your feet a lot in a short space,” he said.
Mrs Eatherley said it can get hot in the truck, and stressful during busy times.
“We do have to make sure we aren't arguing all the time,” she said.
They've been married 12 years. Mrs Eatherley, who is originally from Brazil, is a teacher by training.
“They only have ice-cream trucks in Brazil in the really big cities, otherwise it is not a common thing,” she said. “But we do have a man who comes around with a box of ice cream on his shoulder. We have some wonderful flavours in Brazil such as coconut. Unfortunately, we are not able to import them here.”
She tends to handle the inside of the truck and Mr Eatherley the outside.
“The most challenging thing is the cleaning,” she said. “It is a very lengthy process. You have to empty the machine and take it apart. First you wash it and take it apart, sanitise it and put it back together.
“I like to sanitise it again before we use it. That has to be done every time the machine is used.
“What surprised me about this was how enthusiastic people are about ice cream. I thought I was the only one with a sweet tooth. I also didn't expect it to be so much work. But we aren't busy every day, so some days I get to rest before we get back to it.”
• Call 531-1313 or look for them on Facebook: Scoops-n-Cones