A tall man with a heavy English accent greets customers as he stoops to serve them soft serve ice cream out of a bright blue truck.
Under the heat of the Tahoe sun, a long line forms around the Super Swirl vehicle and sunburned tourists gladly hand over cash in exchange for flavor-swirled cones.
“I absolutely adore ice cream,” said Peter Orr, owner of Super Swirl Inc. Commonly referred to as “the ice cream man,” the native of Liverpool knows the gold mine combination that is summer afternoons and soft serve cones and slushies.
As Super Swirl gains recognition around Truckee Tahoe, his customers are understanding it too. The product of pure cream swirled with Ghirardelli chocolate, caramel or strawberry swirl is made on a traditional Italian machine and makes a beautifully delicate cone of twisting layers.
“The fact is that my ice cream looks so good it sells itself,” Peter said. “And at least 10 percent come back and say it’s the best ice cream they’ve ever had.”
ENGLISH ICE CREAM ROOTS
In England, where a year of good weather is one with 70 days of sunshine, “there’s an ice cream truck on every corner,” Peter said.
The businessman spent his summers during college going back to his hometown and working on a friend’s ice cream truck, always looking forward to the months when he could make money serving ice creams to families at the park or people on the beach.
In Peter’s mother country, ice cream trucks, or ice cream vans as they are called, don’t blare music while driving around neighborhoods. The brightly colored vehicles simply park in public places and if the temperature is high enough and it’s not raining buckets, people line up for cold cones.
“There’s nothing wrong with being called the ice cream man driving around the street in a truck, but it’s not really what I do,” Peter said. “I cater parties and work at big events.”
FROM SNOW TO CONES
Peter, like so many snow lovers, came to the area to snowboard. It wasn’t long into his American life the once corporate world businessman knew what his new venture would be.
“I was walking around the lake and really felt like an ice cream. Then I realized there were no ice cream trucks,” Peter explained.
Peter immediately called his friend, another snow chaser from the United Kingdom, and told him his plan.
“Don’t laugh,” he said to his buddy. “I know what I’m going to do, I’ve done it before, it’s really profitable and it’s totally legal.”
Peter’s friend, also a businessman in Tahoe, laughed hysterically and then admitted he was jealous he hadn’t thought of the ice cream truck himself: Englishmen know the importance of the local ice cream truck come summer.
BIG BLUE TRUCK AT BIG EVENTS
As Super Swirl serves up its second summer in Truckee Tahoe, Peter is filling his calendar with corporate events, birthday and graduation parties. The blue truck, made especially for Peter by the world’s top ice cream truck engineers in England, will be parked at the West End of Donner Pass Road for Truckee Thursdays.
The same ice cream truck that Peter drove from Dallas will make appearances in Kings Beach each Friday for the Music on the Beach, which kicks off June 27. The temperamental truck, with all of its Italian machinery, holds 60 gallons of ice cream and gives Peter the ability to serve 400 ice cream cones in an hour.
“The creaminess and the consistency — it’s going to melt on your tongue but the inside keeps cold so it doesn’t run down your arm,” Peter said of his soft serve.
The slushies come in flavors like raspberry blue lemon, tangerine orange and cherry freeze and peak in sales at the very hour Peter predicts. According to the swirl server, slushies sell from noon to 3 p.m. and the cones swirled in strawberry, chocolate or caramel, sell like hot cakes from 3 to 6 p.m.
“All ice cream people will tell you the same thing,” Peter said of the public’s predictability in buying slushies and ice cream. “It doesn’t matter where you are, in what part of the country.”
BEAT THE HEAT CHALLENGE
The heat is the biggest challenge for Peter, who ends up sweating inside his ice cream truck and having to eat a few cones both to cool down and maintain what he calls “quality control.”
Keeping the ice cream cold is one thing, but preserving the perfect temperature for the flavored syrups is quite a challenge. “The syrup is the most complicated part,” Peter said. “I wanted the quality, and the Ghirardelli stuff has the taste and is nice and thick and never gets too runny.”
Look for Peter in his large blue Super Swirl truck at events around Truckee Tahoe this summer. The Super Swirl owner is offering a Facebook promotion for his slushies and cones: to thank those who “like” Super Swirl’s Facebook page, Peter is offering a buy one get one free deal.
Jenny Luna is a local freelance writer based in Truckee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The creaminess and the consistency — it’s going to melt on your tongue, but the inside keeps cold so it doesn’t run down your arm.”
Peter Orr, owner of Super Swirl Inc.