Weekly Feature

2017-07-13 / Lifestyles

Ice Creamcycle business...

Serving more than just city kids for 10 years
ALAN RIZZO
Reporter


James Karagiannis, owner of the ice cream delivery business Ice Creamcycle, hands a few cool treats to Buffalo resident Taylor Mullen, 9, during a recent visit to Shoshone Park on Hertel Avenue. James Karagiannis, owner of the ice cream delivery business Ice Creamcycle, hands a few cool treats to Buffalo resident Taylor Mullen, 9, during a recent visit to Shoshone Park on Hertel Avenue. In 2007, North Buffalo native James Karagiannis had a corny idea. At least he thought it was.

Inspired by street vendors in New York City, he wanted to break into Buffalo’s restaurant scene by selling ice cream by bicycle.

At about $5,000, the startup cost was low, and the idea suited his personality and a few things he loved: the outdoors, conversation, bicycles and ice cream.

While he wasn’t sure about it, a friend encouraged him to run with the idea, and the Ice Creamcycle business was born.

Fast forward 10 years, and Karagiannis has six ice cream cycles and a small staff of part-time college students, all of whom pedal distances great and small to sell a variety of cool treats for $1 each to thousands of children in city neighborhoods and at school field days in the suburbs.


Buffalo native Jerrod Miner, left, a rider for James Karagiannis’ Ice Creamcycle business, hands ice cream to fifth-grader William Lubs at North Tonawanda’s Drake Elementary during a field day in June. Buffalo native Jerrod Miner, left, a rider for James Karagiannis’ Ice Creamcycle business, hands ice cream to fifth-grader William Lubs at North Tonawanda’s Drake Elementary during a field day in June. For the approximately 15 percent of children who can’t pay, they give away the ice cream, asking only that children participate in a pay-it-forward program, writing thank you postcards to donors.

Launched last year, that program has netted $35,000 and counting in donations — fully funding it into next summer — and has won Karagiannis national attention.

After 10 years in business, Karagiannis said there are many reasons he is still peddling ice cream: It makes people happy, it allows him to role model kindness to children and it strengthens his faith in the kindness of strangers.

“What surprised me most is that it touched so many people,” he said. “I love my city more. I think the people here are really super cool, and it’s definitely given me the opportunity to explore more than I probably would have otherwise.”

One place he has explored is the suburbs, where news of Karagiannis’ work has spread by word of mouth, at schools such as Amherst’s Bornhava, which has worked with him since 2007.

“They’ve had me come two times every summer for the past 10 years,” he said, noting that connections made there have led to engagements at other schools. “Our Junes now are just all schools, every day.”

This year, one school to jump on the bandwagon was North Tonawanda’s Drake Elementary, which invited one of Karagiannis’ riders out for its field day on June 16. Jerrod Miner, a native of Buffalo’s East Side, was that rider, doling out ice cream on what was a sweltering spring day.

Between semesters at Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Miner said he was happy to bike the nearly 10 miles to Drake from North Buffalo because it was a chance to visit a community he was unfamiliar with and because “there shouldn’t be a limit” on where or how far riders go to deliver treats.

“It’s a lot of fun, first of all, just hanging out with kids and eating ice cream all day,” he said. “But I feel like we go to a lot of areas that get sort of forgotten about throughout the city. I didn’t even know about [Drake Elementary], and here we are. It’s just good to be in a variety of communities, see all different types of people and just kind of hang out.”

In doing so, Miner said he’s shed a cynicism he once held about human generosity, recalling an experience from his first summer peddling ice cream.

“The very first time I was riding through the East Side, a car pulled over and [the driver] handed me $20, and was just like, ‘The next 20 kids you see, give them an ice cream,’” he said. “I’ve always been sort of cynical about people, thinking they’re innately selfish and whatnot, but that kind of changed my idea on that.”

Drake Elementary Principal Katie Smith said that phenomenon and the pay-it-forward program are a large part of why the school’s Parent Teacher Organization paid Karagiannis to send a rider up this year.

“I think there’s a huge element of philanthropy there on his part,” she said. “I think that that speaks volumes to who he is as a person and also sends a positive message, hopefully something that our kids can look up to as well: the importance of giving back to community.”

To learn more about Karagiannis and his business, visit https://www.icecreamdude.com/.

To keep track of his exploits, visit www.facebook.com/creamcycle/.

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