How to build an ice cream cart

Written by nicholas barretta
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Ice cream carts are enormously popular during the spring and summer months, especially with young children. Many people choose to supplement their annual income by becoming ice cream entrepreneurs during the hottest time of the year. Fortunately, it is not too difficult to find the equipment needed to break into this profitable summer business. After all, an ice cream cart is essentially a freezer on wheels. Pre-built carts are available, but they can be quite expensive. This guide will show you the most economical way to break into the business of ice cream vending.

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Things you need

  • Portable freezer unit
  • Method of transporting the freezer (such as a pull-wagon or a pickup truck)
  • Garage with power outlets
  • Ice cream
  • Dry ice
  • Gloves
  • Thermometer
  • Brown paper bag
  • Cash box
  • Receipt book
  • Change
  • Appropriate licenses/permits
  • Cardboard
  • Markers or poster paint

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  1. 1

    Place the freezer unit in the bed of your wagon or pickup truck.

  2. 2

    Charge your freezer unit by plugging it into a standard wall outlet. Most portable freezers require an initial charge before they can be used, as they do not come pre-charged. If you are using a truck freezer, make sure your garage has wall outlets. If you are in an apartment or don't have a garage with outlets, a wagon-based freezer may be a better choice, as they are smaller and can be charged inside a house or apartment.

  3. 3

    Take a block of dry ice and place it inside a brown paper bag. Make sure that you wear gloves while you do this, as dry ice will freeze the skin on contact. Once the dry ice is in the bag, place it inside the freezer. There should be 2.5 to 3 pounds of ice for every cubic foot of freezer space (e.g., an 18-cubic-foot freezer = 45- to 54-pound block of dry ice). The dry ice will keep your ice cream cold even after the charge on the freezer expires, allowing you to stay out longer and maximise your profits.

  4. 4

    Use the cardboard and the markers/poster paint to make a sign for your cart. List the prices for all of your items, and come up with a catchy name for your cart so that people will remember you.

  5. 5

    Load your ice cream into the freezer, and make sure that every item is represented on the pricing sign.

  6. 6

    Take your ice cream cart out and begin selling. Throughout the day, monitor your freezer's temperature with a thermometer to make sure that your ice cream is cold enough. The ideal storage temperature for ice cream is -17.7 to -15.0 degrees C below zero (Fahrenheit), so make sure that the freezer temperature stays in this area. Also, be sure to carry a cash box with change as well as a receipt book on you at all times. The cash box allows you to store your earnings and give change, while the receipt book will let you keep track of every purchase that is made for inventory purposes.

Tips and warnings

  • Check with local legislation and verify what steps, if any, need to be taken in order to register your new ice cream vending business with the state. Depending on where you live, you may need to register your ice cream cart's name with the state and/or acquire appropriate licenses and permits. Do this before you start selling, or you could wind up in some sort of legal trouble depending on your home state.
  • Your dry ice will last longer if your freezer is full, so, as you sell, try filling the empty space with crumpled up balls of old newspaper (once the ice cream is gone).
  • When you open the lid of your freezer, stand back for a few seconds and let the dry ice vapours flow out. This way, you won't breathe any in. Make sure to tell your customers to stand back as you open the freezer. It would also be a good idea to place a sign stating this where your customers can see it.
  • You will make the most money by choosing a good location for your ice cream cart. A park, city square or other pedestrian areas are usually good places in which to sell.
  • Try to have variety in your ice cream selection, so that you attract the most customers.
  • Keep track of which products are selling so that you can modify your inventory accordingly.
  • Check with all local law enforcement officials before you start selling food. Some jurisdictions may require a license for street vendors.
  • If you are asked to leave an area by a police officer, do not argue, or you could end up with a fine (or worse).
  • Be extremely careful when handling dry ice. Never, under any circumstances, should you touch dry ice with your bare hands. Do not breathe in dry ice vapours.

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