David Del Carlo worked for years in the collections business before he purchased his first ice cream shop in 2003. Owning Frosty’s Ice Cream in Lancaster, he explained, fulfilled a childhood dream. At 54, Del Carlo is an easy-going man whose collection of novelty hats grows by the season. Fueled by customers who trade hats for ice cream, the collection is just one example of Del Carlo’s penchant for fun.
His gold pierced earring in the shape of an ice cream cone could be another sign, as are the custom wheel rims he ordered for his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Instead of spokes they will feature ice cream cones.
Del Carlo’s family-run business employs daughter Kristy, 23; son Nicholas, 25, and his father George, who is 85. In 2010 Del Carlo purchased his second store, located on George Urban Boulevard in Depew – not bad for a former Marine who left high school before graduating.
People Talk: Was your career change planned?
David Del Carlo: No, it was a walk out the door. The collections company I worked for wanted to push me out and hire someone for pennies. Actually, my horoscope on April 1 said to follow your dreams, and that’s when I found out about this place. On April 2, it said if there’s a business venture you always wanted to do, go do it. On April 3, I quit my job and had a bonfire at my house to burn all my suits and ties. I opened the door on Frosty’s May 1.
PT: I bet you were good at collections.
DD: I was. I went into four companies and made them money and then they got rid of me. I was always a go-getter, always a hustler. But the reality was, when I was 5 years old my dad would take me to the old Beef and Sirloin and get that big ice cream cone. I actually liked the banana custard in a dish with chocolate sprinkles. From then on, I wanted an ice cream stand.
PT: Ice cream sales hit $11 billion last year. The industry has been called recession-proof. Did you know it would be so lucrative?
DD: I had no idea what I was getting into. I found out the shop was for sale, called my realtor and in three days I bought it. On May 1 when I walked in here there was nobody, just me. I learned everything by myself. So I didn’t do any research. I didn’t know anything about ice cream. I just thought it would be fun because everybody who comes for ice cream is happy.
PT: There’s something about ice cream.
DD: People sit out here in the rain and eat ice cream. Why? I don’t know. It’s a treat, like an Easter basket or Christmas morning.
PT: Tell me about your Doggie Delight ice cream treat for canines.
DD: My first year in business, everybody would buy their pets ice cream and they would just throw it on the ground and let the dogs eat. I thought dogs are people, too, so I decided to put vanilla ice cream in a dish and decorate it with dog bone biscuits so dogs had their own treat. I sell about 15 to 20 a day. I have a customer who doesn’t even eat ice cream. The dog comes up and orders by barking at the window. He’s a big dog.
PT: Are you a biker?
DD: I am, but I’m not a biker biker. I mean I don’t belong to a club but there’s a whole bunch of us who ride. I used to have bike night here on Mondays with 70 bikes. I have a Harley. I’ve always had [Ford] Mustangs. In 2006 we did a Mustang cruise.
PT: Do you introduce a new product or event each year?
DD: Oh yeah, probably lots of things – like the Shark Attack Sundae, vanilla ice cream with blue dip and gummy sharks all around. I’m very creative. My Dirt and Worm Sundae is Oreo cookies with gummy bears, but my signature best sundae is my Brownie Sundae because they’re made fresh every day. My ex-wife bakes them.
PT: You are a good businessman.
DD: I know I am. I have 142 hats on the wall, and all but six were given to me by customers. The first hat was Bullwinkle given to me by the dentist down the street. All of a sudden I started wearing goofy hats, Mickey Mouse, a frog.
PT: You must be a hit with the kids.
DD: Court Street school brings all the kids. I used to have an apron with two whipped cream canister holsters. I used to come out and chase the kids around and soak them with whipped cream, but then we had a Mom complain that her kid was sticky. So we had to cut it out, but I still have people coming up to me about the time I squirted their teacher with whipped cream. They’re all grown up and done with college.
PT: Why didn’t you finish high school?
DD: I wasn’t good at it. I was a bad reader and was kept back. I couldn’t learn from a book. I rode the small bus and had to wear a helmet.
PT: And now you’ve launched your second shop. What led to that?
DD: The opportunity, plus I sat with my children to make sure they wanted to do this. If they didn’t want to, I would not have purchased a second shop. They love it.
PT: How great is the demand for your one-pound ice cream cone that is 14 inches tall?
DD: Most people come in and just want to try and eat it. That’s why we want to start a challenge on May 20. The first person who finishes the whole cone sets the time to beat. It’s kind of like “Man v. Food.” There will be rules – like you must be watched by an employee, and two people can’t eat it.
PT: How do you stack the scoops so they stick together?
DD: Experience. We can actually turn the cone upside down.
PT: You must eat a lot of ice cream.
DD: Not like I used to, but I still love it. I have my favorite, which is Fireball. I sell a ton of it. People think I sit here all day and just eat ice cream. I did for the first five years every single day. Now I go around and talk to the customers all day. The feeling I get when my ice cream puts a smile on somebody’s face, that’s what it’s all about. There’s nothing better.
PT: Do you serve any low-fat products?
DD: My Wow Cow at the George Urban location has no carbs, no sugar and is fat free. It’s a powder and water base. It comes out of an ice cream machine. I switch between butterscotch and raspberry swirl flavors.
PT: How do you wind down after a long day at the ice cream shop?
DD: Really? Is a beer out of the question? I like to play games, video games.