Despite the Season, the Ice Queen Expands Her Realm
As anyone who’s seen the long lines for her ice cream “sammiches” knows, Christine Catania is the (Ice) Queen of the Triad’s renaissance in vehicular cuisine. Now she’s expanding her realm of frosty treats. Before getting to that, I ask something I’d wondered five years ago when I met a lovely young woman in a short bus decorated with giant fiberglass cones. What made her decide to do this?
“I knew there was something I was destined for, yet had no clue what. In May of 2011, I had to jump into something new. I was working full time at M’Couls and asked Simonne [McClinton, the owner] if I could reduce my hours to research and plan my future. Being awesome, she said yes. Checking Craigslist for food truck ads, I read “Ice cream truck – Pleasant Garden” and knew she would be mine before I even saw her. She was ugly as sin, but that little bus was what I’d been searching for. I bought her the next day, named her Snowflake, and with help from friends, got her painted and cleaned up. We had our first event together on July 2 of 2011 and have celebrated our anniversary with ice cream every year since. I still talk to her when we’re driving. That girl has soul and has saved my butt on several occasions.
Shortycake is her younger sister and is the baby of my partner, Jeff Matthews. He turned a daycare bus into a classy and extremely well-designed ice cream parlor. Shortycake may be the newer and fancier truck, but Snowflake will always be my girl.”
Anybody who’s heard Christine laugh or give commands to her dogs knows she’s a Jersey gal. “I was born in Fort Lee and went to school up there until my freshman year in college. I transferred to UNCG for interior architecture in my sophomore year, and after taking a few years off I graduated from the Art Department in 2001.”
She has no plans for sending her growing fleet of ice cream trucks on neighborhood routes.
“I tried my first year. You know how annoying the ice cream music is when it passes your house? Multiply that time 100,000. Neither Snowflake nor Shortycake will ever play that brain-eating music again.”
Speaking of eating, I ask her to comment on Greensboro’s food truck scene, which was practically non-existent when she started out.
“It’s grown so much! The city seems like it’s trying to be supportive while not upsetting the brick and mortars. It’s a difficult balance to maintain, but they’re getting there. LeBauer Park and the Tracks will hopefully be places that can host food trucks regularly. Our trucks mostly do corporate events during the week and food truck festivals on the weekends, but we do try to squeeze in some time to be available for Snowflake stalkers to get a sammich without waiting in a huge line. Having our second truck, Shortycake, is going to make a huge difference in next years event planning.”
Reversing the usual trend, Christine just expanded to a literal brick and mortar location with her new concession at the Greensboro Coliseum. When asked how that came about, she says she was invited out of the blue.
“When I got the call, I wondered if someone was trying to punk me. We met with the concessions group and Mike from the Coliseum. They wanted a local business with a good footing in the community to join their group. We had our first event on Oct. 6. There’s a permanent kiosk by section 130 and we have Flurry , the cart, by section 112. We still have a lot to learn, but we’re there.
“Since we’ve been doing special events for years for big companies like VF Corp, Cone Health and Krispy Kreme, we’re prepared for the mad rush during breaks and also the slow downtime in between. It’s a perfect expansion for the Ice Queen to move into a somewhat stationary location. We’re not very good at being still. It’s such a different feel, working inside a building and not in a truck that moves a little with every step. So many things about the business have to be tweaked to fit into the new suit that is the Coliseum. It’s still all very Ice Queen and won’t become something too different from our roots. The most popular Sammiches like the Cookie Monster and Kermint are on the menu as well as scoops. We’re so excited to be there and will still strive to bring a smile to everyone’s face when they swing by. Making each guest happy was my ultimate goal when I started the business and won’t ever change.”
“We also have the opportunity to set up for almost any event on the Coliseum grounds with one of the trucks or Flurry, the ice cream cart. It’s such a perfect fit for us and we’re so excited to work with the peeps over there. The staff at the Coliseum has been extremely supportive and welcoming. It’s a great group of people over there. We have the food truck family and now we’re gaining another.”
Late Fall and Winter are her off-season, but she’s not taking it easy just yet. “We’ll be streamlining everything we need at the Coliseum and will be open for the Disney on Ice, the holiday concerts, college basketball games, and almost anything else that will be going on in the main arena. We also hope to set up in the Special Events Center. Other than that, we’ll be catching up on things that I don’t get to do during the super busy warm months. Maybe we’ll even go on a vacation!”
“The trucks will be hibernating, but wake up pretty easily if anybody wants them to come out for a special event they’re putting together. The good thing about ice cream in the winter is that it doesn’t melt too fast!”
All photos for this article are by Christine and her partner Jeff Matthews.