Fond memories of an ice cream truck from a decade ago sparked an idea for a Newton woman to start her own company.
Jenine Simon first moved to town with her family in 2008. There was an ice cream truck that used to drive around their neighborhood and she remembered how excited her kids were to see it.
“I don’t think I had ever seen an ice cream truck either. I remember thinking that as pretty cool but I wasn’t in a position to take something like that on and I definitely didn’t tell anyone, but I always kind of kept the idea in my head,” she said.
Then 10 years later as a single mom to three teenagers, Nate, Abby and Sam, Simon decided it was time to make a change. Last year, Simon was having a conversation with her boyfriend, Mike, and mentioned the idea of owning an ice cream truck someday. Her youngest child, Sam, has Down Syndrome and she saw it as an opportunity to create something of a legacy for him.
They talked about the idea on and off for a year, but Simon never fully launched the idea. Then in the summer of 2019, Mike found “the truck” and Simon bought it the same day.
“July 8, 2019 (was) day 1 of Sea Turtle Ice Cream Company. Mike spent the next several months converting the old delivery truck into a food truck,” she said.
After months of work, Simon was ready to launch her ice cream truck at a charity event. A local family was holding a ceremony to celebrate World Down Syndrome day March 21. But before she could even open, the COVID-19 pandemic shut her down and delayed business for several weeks.
Despite the later than planned opening, she began operations mid-May.
“Unfortunately because of COVID, all of my events got canceled early in the season, but once things started opening up, I have been able to do a variety of events,” Simon said.
The truck offers 20 to 30 novelty ice cream products. Simon has been operating at birthday or graduation parties, employee appreciations, wedding receptions or pretty much any type event potential customers want to book. She plans to participate in parades and has visited sports team practices and assisted living facilities. Simon has also brought her truck the Newton Farmers’ Market.
She and her son Sam like taking the truck out in the more traditional way.
“Sam and I also run neighborhood routes as often as we can in Newton, so the kids can get the retro ice cream truck experience,” Simon said.
The truck will operate during the warmer months of the year so she will likely end her season in September or October, depending when the weather gets consistently cold. Operations will resume again in the spring, likely in March or April.
The truck isn’t Simon’s only occupation. She works as a 1:1 para educator with the Newton Community School District, so Simon plans to run the truck more during the summer vacation time. However even in the month she is working at the school, she will still be able to do afternoon and weekend events and also run the truck on evening routes.
While the ice cream truck has always been an interest of hers, Simon wants to be sure she is using it as a vehicle to help others.
“The mission for the truck has always been to use it as a tool to show people to pay it forward and to see who needs our help in our community. A lot of us have enough, we are lucky to have food and a home and healthy children, and we get comfortable with that and we don’t always see those who don’t have these things,” Simon said.
Simon is one who always feels she can do more for others. She feels it is important to volunteer and advocate for those in need “in our amazing little town.”
“So that’s the reason I own Sea Turtle Ice Cream Company,” Simon said.
A portion of the proceeds from sales are donated to local charities and causes. Simon gives to a variety of charities but many involve help to provide for children who are sick or in need and groups that help feed families or help with park improvements.
Simon also has a donation box on her truck, inviting people willing to give to those in need.
“I also collect money for those causes by setting up for a charity event and donating a portion of the sales or having a donation box on my truck when I am out on the town. I donate as much as I can and still be able to keep the truck stocked and maintained,” Simon said.
In her first season of operation, Simon has been extremely grateful for the support the community has extended to her small business. Even though the year hasn’t gone exactly to plan, she is still very fortunate to have launched a business and get a positive response.
“I am very lucky, I have a job where everyone is happy to see me,” she said.