This is part one of a two-part series on how an entrepreneur built a novel food truck business in South Florida.

Steve Popkin never planned on becoming a food truck operator. A longtime entrepreneur, he was looking at starting a hobby collecting vintage ice cream trucks after he sold a family-owned software business two years ago.

"I always wanted to have an old ice cream truck as a kid," he told Food Truck Operator in a phone interview. "Instead of collecting cars, I like collecting ice cream trucks. The older the cooler, the better."

"When I got my first truck, I realized it was karma, it was meant to be," Popkin said, explaining his company name, Karmic Ice Cream.

It wasn't long before his wife, Debbie, asked him what he planned to do with the trucks he was collecting. That's when he got the idea of selling ice cream.

The 1958 Chevrolet ice cream truck served 900 people in two hours at an event Karmic Ice Cream catered.

Popkin realized he wasn't the only person who missed the ice cream trucks that were once a common sight in American neighborhoods. He reasoned many people would be delighted to see a vintage ice cream truck and relive a part of their childhood buying ice cream from such a truck.

"You don't see people driving through the streets selling ice cream anymore," he said, noting insurance costs and fuel costs have made it difficult to make money in what was once a fairly large industry.

Popkin first outfitted a restored 1931 Good Humor truck he bought in Connecticut. His second truck was a 1958 Chevrolet ice cream truck, followed by a 1940 Ford pickup truck and trailer carrying a freezer. This was followed by a 2003 Harley Davidson motorcycle with a custom-built freezer side car. The latest addition is a 1935 Ford Model 50 pickup, a 345-horsepower hot rod, that can top 100 mph which took two years for his refurbisher to finish. 

Popkin also has three electric ice cream carts he designed that include a golf cart chassis and a cold plate freezer on the back that haven't been put into service yet. The carts, 10 feet long by 4.5 feet wide, need to be transported by trailer. 

Each vehicle has a Florida Department of Agriculture permit, Popkin said. Since the ice cream is not prepared on the trucks, they do not need the local permits that food trucks that cook food typically require, although some municipalities do require safety inspections. The product is kept frozen by cold plate freezers, which Popkin unplugs in the morning since they can hold the temperature for six hours.

Just as Popkin expected, the South Florida community welcomed the trucks with open arms when he launched his Coral Springs, Florida-based Karmic Ice Cream two years ago.

"It's the novelty of the truck that brought people," he said. "When people see the old truck, the smiles come across their faces."

"We kind of recreate the old way of having ice cream," said Debbie, who shares driving duty with the couple's 24-year-old son, Noah. "They also can create new memories while reliving a bit of their childhood — or the childhood they wish they had."

Servicing the trucks hasn't been an issue. Popkin was able to find mechanics at an organization he found on the Internet called The Gold Coast Model A Club. "I keep the trucks in great working order so they can be taken out regularly," he said.

Popkin's trucks are unlike many of today's ice cream trucks in that they serve packaged ice cream as opposed to soft-service ice cream. 

Karmic Ice Cream carries Good Humor, Rich's, Ben & Jerry's, Dove Bars, Klondike, Mars, Bindi, Popsicle, Rosati Ice, Blue Bunny and Bomb Pops. It also offers products that are lactose-free, nut-free, sugar-free, whey-free, kosher, gluten-free and organic.

Part two of this two-part series will explore how Popkin established a presence for his novel business in South Florida.

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