Happy Cow Cones: Ice cream for a cause

From left, Kyla Sheehe and Hailey Gleason, both 14, of Mendon, along with Julia Deppert, 14, of Tinmouth, enjoy ice cream courtesy of Happy Cow Cones at Friday Night Live in Rutland. (Kate Barcellos / Staff Photo)

By Katelyn Barcellos
Staff Writer

Everyone remembers childhood summers waiting anxiously for that special music indicating the ice-cream man was on his way.

Two years ago, Mark Foley Sr. decided to make his dream a reality, and become an ice-cream man.

“My husband has always wanted an ice-cream truck,” Nancy Foley said. “It’s just one of those things you think, ‘I’d like to do that someday.’”

Mark Foley Sr. hands a frosty treat to a customer from his ice cream van, Happy Cow Cones, during Friday Night Live in Rutland. (Kate Barcellos / Staff Photo)

Foley said she and her husband spent five years researching different ice cream trucks, but were disappointed by a lot of what they saw: dirty, used trucks or others just patched together and running on loud generators.

“We wanted a first-class truck,” Foley said. “And we wanted it to be clean, that was very important to us.”

Finally, in 2016, they purchased an extended cargo van that suited their needs, but they wanted it to be customized and perfect.

And they found the perfect company for the customization — in Cheshire, England.

Whitby Morrison builds and customizes trailers, bicycles, vans and carts for anyone who wants to sell ice cream — hard, soft or novelty. He outfits their creations with coolers, sliding windows and soft-serve ice cream machines.

The Foleys went for it: They shipped their van to England for alterations, and about six months later, their custom ice-cream van was shipped back, transformed into a one-of-a-kind treat dispenser.

“It’s very functional,” Foley said. “It was designed as an ice-cream truck, and it will always be an ice-cream truck. It’s got a nice freezer for novelty bars, refrigerator for cold drinks, and the only type of ice-cream machine that functions off a motor instead of a generator.”

Once they had their van back, the Foleys added custom tires, neon lights and a shaved-ice machine.

“You never see shaved ice around here,” Foley said. “The shaved ice is a more technical machine: It comes out like snow. With the shaved ice, its a better experience, and we sell a lot of it. Depending on the age group, it’s sometimes more popular than the ice cream.”

But what to name their new creamery-on-wheels?

“It was a lot of collaboration, let me tell you,” she said. “We spent six months on that alone. Lots of tweaking, and finally we said ‘that’s it.’”

The Foleys drew up a website, created a menu and Happy Cow Cones was ready to hit the streets with their state-of-the-art ice-cream van.

Today, Foley said, they travel all around Vermont, from southern Vermont all the way to Burlington, with a goal of attending two events every day from mid-May to mid-September.

Because who doesn’t want an ice-cream truck at their wedding?

“Renting depends,” she said. “We factor in type of event, how many people there will be, how far we have to travel, and then we quote it.”

Unless it’s for the Foley Cancer Research Center, named for the Foleys, who attend any events for the center free of charge.

That’s not all the Foleys do for the center, though — every penny made from the Happy Cow Cones truck goes directly to benefit the center.

In their first year, the Foleys said they made $22,000. Last year, they made $28,000.

“We wanted to use this venue to give back to the community, which was why we settled on the Cancer Center,” Foley said. “His mother and my father passed away from cancer, and there have been so many friends that we’ve lost. Its very important to our community, so we’ve always been a supporter.”

The Foleys have set a goal of $100,000 for Happy Cow Cones.

“I expect we’ll make our goal by early next season,” Foley said.

Happy Cow Cones offers chocolate, vanilla and chocolate-vanilla-twist soft serve, sundaes, ice-cream cookie sandwiches, novelty ice creams and Hawaiian shaved ices in flavors ranging from margarita to root beer.

Friends Hailey Gleason, 14, Kyla Sheehe, 14, and Julia Deppert, 14, are no strangers to Happy Cow Cones’ shaved ice.

Their favorite?

“Watermelon,” they all said during Friday Night Live.

“And margarita!” Sheehe added.

Foley said they try to use local ingredients for their treats, including local maple syrup, Thomas Dairy products and fresh local strawberries during the season.

What the Foleys really enjoy about their new business is their customers.

“We have so many people come up to the truck and thank us,” Foley said. “I enjoy very much the time we spend with people. They really make it all worthwhile.”