living underground in the real world

the story of the ice cream guy

2012 note! horrifyingly, this year we learned that the ice cream we’d been eating for like five years and had been told by The Dude was vegan EVERY SINGLE YEAR contained, when we spied the box and got a suspicious feeling (“Dole Non-Dairy Ice Cream Mix”) and asked to read ingredients, an ingredient (sodium caseinate) that, when exhaustively googled, was “derived from dairy products, but so fucking processed and manipulated that the FDA has said we can put it in ice cream and still call it non-dairy” (actual quote from the FDA). The damn non-dairy creamer trick! I thought I was smarter than that, but no. So the ice cream is dead to us now. Ugh. So mad. Here’s the original blog post:

 

We go to this one place to get ice cream* in Hawaii all the time.

For reasons not fully understandable yet endlessly delightful, they have an entirely vegan soft serve machine. It’s the lightest, tastiest, creamiest soft serve of all time. I crave it 11 months out of the year, and splurge wildly on it throughout the 12th.

But: entering the fucking shop to get it is to descend into a special circle of hell that gives me chills (not nice ice creamy chills) of major ickiness every single time. It’s gotten so bad that, after previous attempts at screaming ‘NOT IT!’ (as mentioned in the oh-so-outdated Kauai guidebook) have failed, I now attempt to pay $1 to any one in my party (I am seriously considering just asking strangers, too) who will order my fucking waffle cone for me just so I don’t have to enter the shop. [YES. THEY HAVE VEGAN WAFFLE CONES!]

Here’s something I’ve learned:

Adults never jump at the chance to do something for $1. Children will, but children—being, sadly, generally useless waiters in general (my quest to find a use for them thus continuing)—have in general not mastered the art of carrying two tall cones ten feet—a necessary skill for this particular task.

The owner of this ice cream shop is a white man in this 40s or 50s or so who hails from the East Coast of these here United States (his accent loudly proclaims this at all times, as does his constant repetition of how he “grew up in NOOOO YAWK CITY,” in apparently the borough of Clichélyn.) and who runs his shop in a manner I personally do not respond to.

Said shopowner is not a bad guy exactly, but his style of customer interaction is so different from my own and my preferred way of being treated that it makes my stomach squirm every time.

Can you guess what comes next?

His business is rated #1 on the whole goddamn fucking island, at least according to Trip Advisor.

Why? His ice cream is good, but it’s not that good. The answer is simple: he’s a hype man.

Endless Trip Advisor comments attest to this. A smattering [sic thoughout, obvs.]:

  • What a wonderful experience – the owner Dan is amazing.
  • My wife and I have had icecream all over the world (including Italy) and we believe that Hawaiian Tropical Icecream is the best we everr had. The owner at Kilauea is also VERY personable which adds to the experience.
  • The owners are a hoot, but in a really friendly way.
  • The ice cream is amazing and could stand alone, but Dan’s passion makes this place number one. We went twice on our trip and the vibe was different each time. I recommended going late since they have one of the latest closing hours on the island (midnight!). We went around 10:30 pm and talked to Dan for about 45 minutes.
  • Obviously from all of the positive reviews it’s no secret that this is some very special ice creme. Some of the flavors are odd and different, but each one unique, rich and creamy. The ice creme, Dan and the whole vibe is a wonderful fattening treat. And actually, I don’t really even like ice creme very much, but I dream of this place! [Really I just copied that one because of “ice creme.”]
  • The owner explained the ice cream and has a whole ‘educational’ speech to give about good ice cream. The Lilikoi was excellent and my wife raved about hers as well. But the delicious ice cream isn’t the story. The owner, is the story. We spent just a few minutes ordering and such and then went back in to get pictures just because we thought it was cute. The owners spent the next 45 minutes talking to us about life. Their move to Hawaii, his inexplicable New York accent even though he moved from there as a baby, and married life. It was a blast.
  • We rented a house in Kilauea the week of Sept 18th and in the welcome letter it said that we had to go to Kilauea Video & Ice Cream and to ask for Danny. Well of course we did this and wow….what an amazing guy!
  • We walked in and were immediately greeted by Dan. He was extremely friendly, offering us samples of various flavors of gelatto and ice cream. And, he gave us quite the education on ice cream and the fact that all the ingredients of the Tropica Dreams ice cream are grown in Kamuela, Hawaii and come with the state of Hawaii, Department of Agriculture seal.
  • Just as others have stated, the owner is friendly, perhaps a tad too talkative….I mentioned to the owner that he was rated #1 on trip advisor and he seemed to already know about it. He went on to say that his restaurant is being featured as top 10 pick on oprah very soon. He also, mentioned that former a chef that works for wolfgang puck designed most of the recipes. Like most ice cream shops his ice cream is served out of large ice cream pail buckets. But unlike other ice cream shops, his ice cream is all covered with white lids. When I asked why? He simply stated, would you store ice cream in your freezer uncovered? He then went on to say, that were selling flavor here not color. Pretty cool stuff indeed….
  • Dan is a fascinating owner, and his insightful details about ice cream, Kauai, and life in general added to the experience.
  • The owner loves to chit chat and talk about his family.
  • While we were there, several people came in for ice cream and the owner was an absolute hoot as he assisted customers!
  • Dan, the man behind the counter, is super talkative and HI-larius! Coming here is definitely a must!

These reviews make him seem like a fun-loving kook, which I guess you could say he is. But these two reviews, also from Trip Advisor, are much more accurate representations of my experiences:

  • The owner is lucky he serves yummy ice cream that stands up to the best around the world because the service is bombastic and rude. The owner talks your hair off about how great he is and how much publicity he’s gotten… I couldn’t even get a word in edge-wise to place my order. His way of saying “no” to customers’ requests is abrupt, as if we should not have asked to begin with. The final straw was when he insulted another customer behind her back for our listening pleasure. Definitely go for the ice cream but your best bet for dealing with the owner is not to make eye contact, read the menu board before asking questions because you might get your head bitten off, and bring a friend who’s good at humorous impressions of obnoxious characters.
  • I’ve never written a poor review, like to always give the benefit of the doubt, and I never pull this card, but my wife and I honestly feel that we were treated so rudely because we look like we’re Hawaiian “natives” and not like the numerous European-American tourists we saw streaming in and out of the place. We noticed how he was pleasant and congenial to the groups before and after us, but wondered why else for the unjustified and rude attitue towards us. (We’re a well-educated and successful couple from the mainland.)**

That’s also how I feel about him, but it’s clear the tide is against me: showmanship is what most people appreciate and respond to. We’re so used to being marketed to. Trying to just be a real person is usually seen as just another marketing ploy. And thus we get hype men like Mr. Ice Cream.

So what’s a little business owner to do who just wants to keep to herself and sell her product in a way she doesn’t find disgusting? As I see it, I have three options (a fourth being to continue selling only over the internet, an option I’m not too fond of. It’s time to grow a little.):

  • Suck it up and become a hype-woman. This involves focusing on show(wo)manship instead of quality. (In not-unrelated news, on the Bonbons Facebook page I am, as we speak, hilariously [well, to myself anyway] parodying this technique while handily using it at face-value as well.) I am not a hype woman. I try to be, I try to hype my shit in a respectful or, failing that, funny, or, failing that, informative way, but the prospect of dealing more with face-to-face customers in 2011 has me resolving to become more of a hype-r in some sort of ethical way. (not “more hyper.” I already am way too hyper.) Honestly, all it involves is not being shy about talking to people about my products, of which I am actually insanely proud. But talking about them to people is just gross to me. Last month I was at an event I brought chocolates to, and I happened to be standing next to them. A woman walked up to me and said, “So tell me about these chocolates.” and all I could think to say was “oh for fuck’s sake. Just fucking try them.” They all had signs, and there were fliers talking about them. But I dutifully started explaining each chocolate, and once I started I couldn’t do it succinctly, so it went, as it always goes, something like this:   “and this one is, like, really amazing. It’s named for Vandana Shiva, do you know her? She writes really amazing books, you should check them out. This one book is about water and how our entire civilization is going to collapse because of lack of adequate water because corporations have….uh, anyway, so the Vandana is made with Hawaiian vanilla beans from this one guy on Maui who has this one-acre vanilla bean farm where he hand-pollinates his vanilla orchids and…um, also, this one has Mexican cinnamon. Now, you’re probably used to using Chinese cinnamon, which is far inferior. I mean, it’s the cinnamon most people use, but it’s a cassia cinnamon, so the sticks are harder and it has this real harsh flavor, like artificial cinnamon extract. Mexican cinnamon, canela, is much better. It’s a softstick cinnamon and it’s really floral and deep and so…well, anyway, ok, also this one has Taza chocolate, which is a great chocolate that’s sort of gritty, I mean–gritty in a good way, like, pleasantly crunchy. It’s gritty because it’s not conched, which is to say, it’s stoneground. It’s all organic and fair-trade too. And, oh, also, the Vandana has ancho chilies. They’re not too spicy, it’s just a bit of heat that you get after the chocolate and cinnamon and vanilla flavors. OK, so…well, that’s the Vandana. Then, there are seven kinds of truffles. This one is the Apple-fennel. It’s made with fennel pollen I harvested myself and….” OBVIOUSLY I NEED TO GET BETTER AT THIS. People don’t like a goddamn senior thesis about every chocolate.
  • Focusing my marketing efforts *exclusively* on the quality of my products, thus attempting to capture a super high-end luxury chocolate market who only respond to elitist “these chocolates are made from the rarest materials on earth and are insanely expensive because they are made only for you!” type of thing. Not my thing.
  • Market only to those who respond to my own weird marketing techniques. I’m currently doing this. It’s been working splendidly, until I quit the job that was making most of my money and now I need to build up the chocos biz and run it like a real business, instead of a fun vanity project.

I guess I know what I need to do: become a hype-woman, but my own sort of quirky, ethical hype-r. I feel myself slowly getting more comfortable with this, but I also see the Holden Caulfield in me dying a little every time I descend into marketing madness.

I dunno. Business is dumb.

I’m not even kidding you, I am seriously off to get ice cream right now.

*As usual, my use of the term “ice cream” should not be construed to mean that I eat torture milk-based ice cream. Just as nut meats and coconut meat are meat and soy and almond milks are milk, ice cream is not a vegan-exclusionary term. I refuse to put it in quotes, qualify it in any way, or care one way or the other if you mistakenly think it refers to pus-laden cow-dairy cream.

**i.e. not those uneducated, poor, dirty Hawaiians. Oy vey!! Apart from the Hawaiian-racism, this dude makes a good point.

6 Responses to “the story of the ice cream guy”

  1. Dustin Rhodes

    When I was in my early 20’s and did not know how to cook, my friend Leslie and I ate at this vegetarian restaurant in Asheville, literally, 5-6 nights a week. The place was amazing: the food was excellent and it was inexpensive.

    Anyway, the owner hired her father to manage the place, and he was so annoying–but nice–that it made you want to avoid the place. Everytime you came in, he did one of his two magic tricks (one of which was pulling a coin out of your ear) and he’d say the same old inane things, and talk about himself endlessly in a grandiose way. I used to feel guilty for despising him–because he was an old man.

    Eventually, he went to live in Florida, for purposes of a proper retirement, and oddly I kind of missed him. Even though I could finally eat my food in peace.

    Reply
  2. the story of the ice cream guy (via resistance is fertile) « OntheWilderSide

    […] the story of the ice cream guy (via resistance is fertile) Posted on January 15, 2011 by wilderside We go to this one place to get ice cream* in Hawaii all the time. For reasons not fully understandable yet endlessly delightful, they have an entirely vegan soft serve machine. It’s the lightest, tastiest, creamiest soft serve of all time. I crave it 11 months out of the year, and splurge wildly on it throughout the 12th. But: entering the fucking shop to get it is to descend into a special circle of hell that gives me chills (not nice ice creamy … Read More […]

    Reply
  3. the story of the ice cream guy (via resistance is fertile) « LI

    […] the story of the ice cream guy (via resistance is fertile) January 15th, 2011 | by wilderside Long Island | Politics We go to this one place to get ice cream* in Hawaii all the time. For reasons not fully understandable yet endlessly delightful, they have an entirely vegan soft serve machine. It’s the lightest, tastiest, creamiest soft serve of all time. I crave it 11 months out of the year, and splurge wildly on it throughout the 12th. But: entering the fucking shop to get it is to descend into a special circle of hell that gives me chills (not nice ice creamy … Read More […]

    Reply
  4. Kauai guidebook | resistance is fertile

    […] His cones are made by Ono of Hawaii, and their cake, sugar, and waffle cones are vegan, too! Vegan waffle cones! He showed me the ingredients! So, you see why we keep coming back. (OK, here is the insane saga of what became of that place)  […]

    Reply
  5. Jenn

    FYI Dan no longer owns Tropical Dreams in Kapaa as he has moved off island….And the new owners- Jenn and Jason, will give you the real scoop on any ingredients contained in what they serve (with a smile). They also have the real deal for vegan ice “cream” made with coconut milk and organic sugar… Coconut and chocolate flavors.

    Reply
    • lagusta

      Hi Jenn! We came a few weeks ago & it was amazing! THANK YOU FOR THE SERVICE YOU ARE PROVIDING ON THIS ISLAND!

      Reply

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