A vanilla ice cream cone double-dipped in fudge and smothered in peanuts made its way from the Mister Softee truck in the East Village to the reaching hands of Ava Castillo, 4, who was held up to the counter by her mother Josephine, 32. Ava’s eyes lit up as she buried her face into the cone, instantly staining her rosy-colored face with remnants of melted chocolate.
“Last winter, I know for a fact I wasn’t buying this little one a cone the first week of March,” said the Park Slope, Brooklyn mom, as she wiped Ava’s face now sprinkled with peanuts stuck to the corners of her mouth. “Ice cream trucks or food carts in general were hard to find because there was no business, but now they’re all over the place.”
Most of New York City’s food trucks have experienced a surge in customers due to the unusually warm winter weather this year, with temperatures skirting the 40s over the past few months and no major snowstorms hitting the Northeast. Food trucks were hit hard with dangerous blizzards back in 2011 and 2010 that forced hundreds of vendors to close until early spring.
But some, like Belgium-born Wafels and Dinges, parked in Columbus Circle, took out their shovels and continued business.
“Last winter was a hard time because we had a big snowstorm and not many people came out, but we made sure we did so customers knew we were there and that built our reputation,” said employee Azamat Alanazaron of Borough Park, Brooklyn. “Our customers are important to us and we want to make them happy. We know waffles do just that during any type of weather.”
Alanazaron added that thanks to social media like Twitter and Facebook, they were able to update foodies on their location before trekking out into the storm.
Like Belgian-inspired Wafels and Dinges, Little Cupcake Lover, a small dessert cart located on Lafayette Street in the East Village, suffered a loss in profits the past few winters that forced them to close its ovens until early spring. This year, however, the cart has served nearly 200 customers daily, a major increase from last year.
“There was so much snow in 2010, we had to close until spring because there was no business, no one was out,” said employee Bahy Elsayed of the two-year-old baking business. “This winter was good, we tried to work Monday through Friday and the temperature was between 30 to 40 degrees, which is good for this time of year.”
Mobile bakery Sweetery NYC, which travels around the city serving treats like muffins and scones in addition to hot and cold beverages, was also in business last winter. But president and co-founder Grant Di Mille said business was slow since “people don’t want to go out.” During slow winter months, Sweetery relies on a catering business with clients including Food Network and the Weather Channel.
Sweetery NYC customer Ellen Dobrin of Gramercy, said she noticed more food trucks out this winter and attributed it to the warmer weather.
“It’s definitely still chilly out, but nothing like it was the past few years,” Dobrin said. “Temperatures were in the single digits and this year we barely reached the ‘teens, so that definitely had a positive effect on all the food trucks that are popping up more and more each day.”
Mediterranean food vendor The Chabah, also in the neighborhood, said bad weather does not affect their business. Serving classic favorites like falafel platters and chicken gyros to more than 100 hungry customers daily, Chabah said rain or shine, they try their best to make it to their location on the corner of 66th Street and Broadway.
“We have to work, no matter what,” he said. “We have regular customers that rely on us and we value their business. We don’t want to lose them because we decided not to open on a snowy day.”