21st Century Ice Cream Truck

By Lindsey DeLoach Jones / Photography By Lindsey DeLoach Jones | June 07, 2017
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A local couple reimagines ice cream on-the-go in their updated Divco milk truck.

Remember hearing the ice cream truck, that unmistakable melody nearing your living room window, swelling as it passed by your mailbox, then fading again while you dug frantically for dimes in your mother’s purse? If only it wouldn’t leave you behind, ten cents or seconds short, you could stand on your tiptoes to beckon from its window a King Cone, Firecracker Popsicle, or Choco Taco.

Nostalgic as we all are for the days of ice cream served by a guy in a paper hat and bowtie, let’s face it: those deep-frozen slabs of dairy weren’t exactly nourishing. In the modern food truck era, it’s high time someone update the ice cream truck—complete with fresh, local ingredients and more sophisticated flavors.

Ryan and Michelle Owens have done just that, and they’ve named it The Chillwagon. You won’t find artificial strawberry bits or “chocolate-flavored” coatings in the ice cream handed down from this truck window, but superior ingredients aren’t the only thing that elevate these mobile confections beyond the sweets of yesteryear. Everything from the truck’s design to the scratch-made organic ice cream to the mission behind the business is top-notch.

Photo 1: Not organic, but sprinkles make everything better.
Photo 2: Michelle has made over 400 containers of ice cream in the Copper River Grill kitchen.

Yet the truck itself—a refurbished 1965 Divco milk truck Ryan purchased off eBay—is every bit as traditional as that tune you recall. Graphic designers by trade, Ryan and Michelle oversaw the customization of the truck from a hollow shell to an ice-cream parlor on wheels, complete with rotating stools. They considered every detail: ice cream toppings served out of glass milk jugs, napkins stacked in wire milk crates, even spoons in the perfect shade of retro blue.

But endearing as they are, the sights ought not distract from what deserves highest praise: the ice cream, Michelle’s own recipe, and its accompanying scratch syrups. The flavors of Michelle’s signature chocolate and vanilla are distinctly “real,” rich and satisfying in a way no luminescent Push-Up Pop ever claimed to be. Even the vanilla is decadent on its own: “It’s vanilla, not plain,” says Michelle. “It shouldn’t taste like nothing.” But if you are inclined to liven it up, Michelle sources the ingredients for her syrups locally, including Beechwood Farms strawberries and Bee Well honey.

Ryan’s idea to own an ice cream truck grew from his boredom with sitting in front of a computer screen all day. “I wanted to do something completely analog,” he says. “To get out there.” And more than anything, he wanted to create something his family would remember doing together. Ryan and Michelle even commissioned a custom flip-down bench in the truck’s rear, just the right size for their son and daughter who accompany them on their excursions. How could the kids resist? Memories, after all, last longer than ice cream.

To find the Chillwagon, go to

Tips appreciated by this hard-working entrepreneurial duo.
Article from Edible Upcountry at
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