“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream” tiny voices sang out in the parking lot at Child’s Play Preschool on Thursday morning as the D’Lish Ice Cream truck played out the traditional tune over its speakers.
The ice cream man in Helena is 14-year-old John Settle. Owning an ice cream truck is a long-time dream come true for John, who is the owner of D’Lish Ice Cream truck.
John said he has been interested in ice cream trucks since he first saw one at about age 4.
“I like ice cream trucks because I like ice cream,” he said.
His favorite is the M&M cookie sandwich.
John has been looking on eBay for ice cream trucks for some time, said his mother, Michelle St. Germain.
“He’s been driving me crazy the last six or seven years about getting one,” St. Germain said. “He got on Boise classifieds and found this truck all set up. I went and drove it home.”
St. Germian is a regional sales manager for PacificSource Health Plans and travels to Oregon, Washington and Idaho for work. Picking up the truck in Idaho wasn’t that out of the way for her.
She said they got a business license and John has been working on the routes. John, not old enough to drive, hired his 16-year-old sister Samantha Settle as his driver. He works the ice cream window. Mom is the backup driver.
Samantha also oversees the accounting and helps make sure the truck is stocked. When they need more ice cream, Samantha drives John to the store.
She said she never thought she would be spending her summer driving an ice cream truck.
“I got talked into it,” she said. “But it’s an easy job, more fun than other jobs, and I get free ice cream.”
John is a pretty serious boss. Samantha said she’s only supposed to choose ice cream from the $1 menu. John said she takes whatever she wants anyway.
John is quite the entrepreneur. St. Germain said he’s always coming up with ways to make money.
“He watches Shark Tank,” she said. “He put together a business plan. He’s got it all priced out and knows how much he has to charge.”
The plan includes paying his mother back for the loan to purchase the truck, paying his sister for her bookkeeping and driving, and buying the ice cream.
All of the initial startup funds came from John’s savings. According to his mother, he always has something he’s doing to earn money. She said this including lawn mowing and babysitting. John also collects and sells coins and buys items -- sweatshirts and bumper stickers -- wholesale online and resells them for a profit.
“He’s always been, ‘How do I make money?’” St. Germain said. “He’s a pretty smart kid.”
The ice cream truck has been a success.
“The look on people’s faces is fun,” St. Germain said. “Kids haven’t seen an ice cream truck like I did. People are saying it’s great to bring this back.”
John goes through community calendars and Facebook events to find opportunities to sell ice cream. He recently went to the Independence Day celebration at Mountain View Meadows Park and he’s trying to get into Helena's Alive at 5 outdoor concerts.
The truck is out every night, weather permitting. Samantha said they are working on regular routes but try to get to area parks. Interested parties can suggest areas and request that the truck show up for neighborhood parties and birthday parties on the D'Lish Facebook page; search D'Lish Ice Cream.
“It’s fun seeing the reaction on faces,” John said. “Some have never seen an ice cream truck. The adults haven’t seen one for a long time.”
Only one of the 14 children at Child’s Play had ever seen and ice cream truck before, and it wasn’t in Helena.
Darla Jackson, owner and teacher at the preschool, said she found out about the business on Facebook.
“I used to have Samantha and John in camp,” Jackson said. “I didn’t know his dream was to have an ice cream truck. He was a very fun kid to have in school and it’s very fun to see them with the truck.”
The ice cream truck is a summer venture. John said it will go until cold weather comes. At that time, he will split the profits with Samantha.