Baldwin couple see water's potential for ice cream boat
Lying on a boat with friends, Kevin Heenan saw the potential: selling ice cream on Pittsburgh's Three Rivers.
Boats and kayaks lined the waters, while dozens of people walked the shores.
For Heenan, whose parents opened an ice cream shop more than three decades ago, the calm waters were full of opportunity. “Getting to basically live on the water, in the sun and sell ice cream. You can't get much better than that,” he said.
So, he and his wife, Lori, of Baldwin Borough, who launched the Sugar and Spice Ice Cream Truck earlier this year, bought a 36-foot house boat for $5,500. The boat, once named Naptime, needs “gutted,” he said, before it can turned into a full-service ice cream boat, ready to serve homemade delicacies on the waters.
Sugar and Spice on Water could be the first food boat in Pittsburgh, Heenan said, with an expected launch in the beginning of April. The couple received clearances from the Allegheny County Health Department and U.S. Coast Guard earlier this month.
The boat will sail Pittsburgh's Three Rivers, with windows on both sides of the vessel, to sell homemade Sugar and Spice ice cream.
Sugar and Spice is the brainchild of Kevin Heenan's parents, Larry and Judi, who opened a candy store on Marylea Avenue in Brentwood in 1984. In 1988, Sugar and Spice began selling ice cream — a passion of Heenan's father's.
By 1997, now owned by Kevin's brother, Keith, moved to its current location on Route 51 in Baldwin Borough.
Kevin Heenan, who was known in the family for having a “great scoop,” hadn't worked in the ice cream business for several years.
Yet, the Heenans, who each had a full-time job, often talked about launching a food-truck business.
It was Lori's idea to pattern the truck after the family business: ice cream.
So, in February, the couple purchased a truck and opened a spin-off to the family ice cream parlor on wheels. They sell ice cream made at the Route 51 store out of the back of a 1984 GMC step van, which Kevin spent months remodeling into a full-service ice cream truck.
“Most ice cream trucks have prepackaged ice cream. This is homemade,” said nephew Jon Shanahan, 24, of Whitehall, who helps with publicity for the family business.
The truck features 10 flavors of ice cream, floats, sundaes and the ever-popular milkshakes, blended fresh in the back of the vehicle.
Lines of 60 people lasted for hours waiting for a scoop of the homemade awesome chocolate, peanut butter and cookie dough ice cream at some of Pittsburgh's most popular festivals, street fairs at SouthSide Works in Pittsburgh and the Brentwood Fourth of July festivities.
“It took everybody by surprised,” Kevin Heenan said.
They hope to mirror the truck's success on the waters.
“We realized we could reach so many people on the rivers,” Kevin Heenan said. “There's just so much going on on the rivers at all times.”
But their first order of business once the boat hits the waters will be getting an “open” sign. People often stop by the truck, knock on the windows, and ask for ice cream, even when it's closed for the day.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.