Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chilly Dilly’s – Ice Cream & Hawaiian Shaved Ice in York, PA

If you’re from the York, PA area, then there’s a strong possibility that you are already familiar with Chilly Dilly’s. Their popular, recognizable fleet of five trucks has faithfully been serving up tasty ice cream treats and Hawaiian Shaved Ice in neighborhoods and special events for five seasons now. Recently, I had a chance to ask Dylan Bauer, owner of Chilly Dilly’s, some questions about his business. For anyone who is thinking of starting their own concessions business, we hope you will glean some helpful information from Dylan’s experience.

What is the length of your season?

Dylan: We usually begin our season near the end of March, first part of April. We run until Halloween. Our final run is in the York Halloween Parade.

Why did you decide to incorporate Hawaiian shaved ice into your ice cream trucks?

Dylan: Simply put…profit. Shaved Ice has a huge profit margin. For example, on my trucks I sell a small cup of shaved ice for $2.00. The cost of making that cup of shaved ice runs me around $0.15 to $0.20. A large cup sells for $3.00, with a total cost of approximately $0.25. People love our shaved ice. It’s fresh and made to order just for them. People like that personal touch. I’m not a fan of snow cones. I think they are boring, cheap, wet, and watery. Shaved ice on the other hand is refreshing and a much better, tastier product.

What type of shaved ice machines do you use on your trucks?

Dylan: All 5 of my trucks use the Hatsuyuki 12 volt cube ice shavers. Since my trucks all use cold plate freezers for their ice cream products, the 12 volt ice shavers work very well for us. We use deep cycle marine batteries which allow our trucks to sit at a special event all day long serving ice cream and making shaved ice without any power issues at all. I also went with cubed ice shavers simply because cube ice is readily available. If, for some reason, one of my drivers runs out of ice on his route, it’s easy to find a convenience store or grocery store where cubed ice may be purchased.

How do you like the Hatsuyuki ice shavers?

Dylan: They’re great. I’ve had one of the machines for 5 years now and it’s seen a lot of use. But, it still is doing a great job. One tip that I would like to make people aware of is this: very cold ice can cause the machine to lock up. It will freeze up, requiring you to take it apart and clean it out. It’s okay to have your ice cold…just not really, really cold!

I know that you sell from trucks on neighborhood routes. But, tell us what else you do in addition to your regular, established routes?

Dylan: Our routes make up the bulk of our sales. But, we also spend about 30% of our time catering special events. We will do business events, parties, and other local, special events. For some of our business parties, we will charge a per-person rate for a two hour block of time. We also have our own website, www.ChillyDillys.com, where people can contact us for special events. We also have a “neighborhood request” form on our site which allows people to request a truck for their neighborhood.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting their own shaved ice/ice cream business?

Dylan: If they’re going to use a truck…drive slowly! Really, I’d say to focus on the profitable items. Shaved ice is our biggest money maker. It’s popular and cheap to produce.

Typically, how many servings do you sell in a day on a truck?

Dylan: We average about 400 sales per day per truck. Out of that number, around 150 sales per day are shaved ice orders on each truck.

How has 1-800-Shaved-Ice helped you and your business?

Dylan: I have used them since day one. My very first purchase was through them. It’s a great company. When I call in to order, they know who I am and I appreciate that. I prefer to call in my orders rather than use the website. I like the personal interaction. They always ship my items out to me as soon as possible. I’ve never really had any problems. I did have one issue once with bottle pourers…the manufacturer had changed them and I didn’t like them at all. I called up and they took care of the problem immediately. Great customer service!

Since you run dedicated routes, are there any funny moments with customers or employees?

Dylan: Nothing specific comes to mind. I do know that it’s great to roll up to a routine stop and see a line of kids (and parents) already there waiting for you. For us, maintaining a consistent routine is vital for our success. People expect us to be at a particular place at a certain time.

What is your favorite shaved ice flavor?

Dylan: Tiger’s blood. I love it! I think we have the best flavors out there. My customers love our flavors too. We make our own simple syrup and use the flavor concentrates from 1-800-Shaved-Ice.

Thanks for taking the time to discuss your business with us Dylan. I know that people will appreciate your input and suggestions for them. From everyone at 1-800-Shaved-Ice, we thank you for your business and hope that your upcoming season will be a busy and very profitable one!

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