Ice cream van model

DSC_0142Van Leeuwen Artisanal Ice Cream is an indulgent product, even by the decadent standards of their super-premium peers. Each $5.50 scoop is flavored with ingredients like $12-a-pound Michel Cluizel chocolate and Sicilian pistachios from the base slopes of Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanos. Professional food journalists and Internet reviewers agree: This is a spare-no-expense operation, and you can taste it. Or as one Yelper put it:

Van Leeuwen is a joke about hipsters and you are the punchline, stuffing your face with eight dollar’s worth of roasted-fig-carmelized-honey-and-walnut ice cream. So, so, so good.

It’s fancy stuff, all right. But focusing on the over-the-top sourcing kind of misses the point—which is that Van Leeuwen, despite its lavish image, is a lean, scrappy operation. Founders Laura O’Neill and the brothers Ben and Pete Van Leeuwen know they won’t be seeing much money in the short run.

DSC_0143“We haven’t amassed any personal wealth other than equity in the business, ” says co-founder Ben Van Leeuwen. “Any whatsoever.”

That’s not only because they splurge on rarefied, impractically-expensive ingredients—it’s because they locate their stores in pricey, hot-market neighborhoods and produce their product in-house to keep quality high, even though it costs more. If Van Leeuwen’s products are known for self-indulgence, their business strategy can be characterized by self-restraint: they don’t compromise on costs that count, put every spare dollar back into the business, and don’t expect to get rich pursuing the textures and flavors they love.

The conventional wisdom is pretty clear: If you want to succeed in the ice cream business, go wholesale.

The inspiration for Van Leeuwen came in the form of a Good Humor truck Ben and Pete Van Leeuwen piloted around their Greenwich, Connecticut hometown during college summers. They saw how lucrative even a conventional ice cream truck could be, and figured a higher-margin version could be seriously profitable.Van Leeuwen stores are high-status and high-visibility. Pictured here, the company's West Village store In 2008—armed with a , 000 friends-and-family investment and a $25, 000 line of credit—they and O’Neill produced their $8, 000 first production run. They bought two old postal trucks, revamped them, and went to work.

As things turned out, 2008 was a good year to start a food truck. The economic downturn had many Americans looking for gourmet food on the cheap—and inspired a revolution in upscale meals on wheels. According to IBISworld data, the number of food trucks increased 16 percent that year, compared with only 4 percent the year before. Among them were Van Leeuwen retrofitted vehicles, which started roving through New York City on June 21.

They don’t actually have a foodmaker mentality. They’re really restaurateurs, people curating an environment as much as they’re selling a product. A Van Leeuwen ice cream shop is about far more than the ice cream. It’s about going into a perfect little place in a swank urban environment. They’re selling an experience, and their weird business model is a lot less weird when you think of it that wayThe disadvantage of the truck model is high initial costs; the advantage is low overhead. With a unique, high-priced, high-margin product, Van Leeuwen grossed $425, 000 that first summer, with profits of $125, 000, according to a 2010 Inc. magazine profile. The three founder/employees hung on to their day jobs, but added a third truck to their fleet before winter blew in.

They chose to open in the part of the city where they all lived—Greenpoint, Brooklyn, then a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, and today some of the most coveted real estate in New York.

They also took steps to mitigate the extremely seasonal nature of the ice cream business—and add new revenue streams—by offering coffee, as well as house-made and local pastries.

“Coffee is a big part of our business, ” Van Leeuwen says. “It’s complementary to ice cream—it doesn’t dilute the brand at all. Our shops are very much café /ice cream shops. And that’s unique.”

The next year, the three Van Leeuwen trucks brought in $900, 000 in revenue and $325, 000 in profit (again according to Inc.). That was enough to finance the 2010 opening of their first brick-and-mortar store. They chose to open in the part of the city where they all lived—Greenpoint, Brooklyn, then a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, and today some of the most coveted real estate in New York.

Oxford Mini Ice Cream Van, RHD, Huskys Ices / Batman, 0, Model Car, Ready-made, Oxford 1:43
Toy (Oxford)
  • Year of Construction : 0
  • scale : 1:43
  • Type : Ready-made
  • Material : Metal / plastic
  • Brand : Mini

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