Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 51° Partly Cloudy
News >  Washington Voices

I scream, you scream

Cruising in their own ice cream truck a sweet treat for this couple

Katy Byrnes, owner of the Sweet & Savory ice cream truck, hands a SpongeBob Popsicle to Norah Spilker that Norah’s dad, Kevin Spilker, bought for her Monday on the South Hill. (Colin Mulvany)
Katy Byrnes, owner of the Sweet & Savory ice cream truck, hands a SpongeBob Popsicle to Norah Spilker that Norah’s dad, Kevin Spilker, bought for her Monday on the South Hill. (Colin Mulvany)

It was wedding bells that brought Katy and Jim Byrnes to the ice cream truck business.

The two – who both have children from previous marriages – wanted to find a way to pay for their wedding three years ago.

Jim Byrnes had been thinking about buying an ice cream truck since his kids were little. And so the couple started Sweet & Savory, an ice cream truck that travels through neighborhoods, small towns and even special events.

The two found an old white van and modified it. They turned the passenger seat around for easy access to the freezer, which is hooked up to a converter for power. They got a business license and an itinerant vendor’s license. They knocked out the window on the sliding door to serve as the van’s counter and hooked up the loud speaker for the music.

“We play an actual Scott Joplin ragtime,” Katy Byrnes said. “I don’t get tired of it.”

The music conjures up images of old-fashioned picnics in the park or trips to the beach. The Byrneses have a CD of Joplin’s tunes that plays many of his ragtime hits, but during private events, they can switch it up to the customer’s tastes.

Byrnes said she wasn’t sure she would like driving an ice cream truck, but after her first customer, she knew she would love it.

She had been driving near Manito Park and stopped for a mom and her little girl. After Byrnes drove away, she could hear the little girl squeal, “It’s so good!” with what Byrnes describes as “sheer joy.”

Byrnes said her customers are always happy to see her.

“People will run barefoot for two blocks,” she said.

During a typical neighborhood drive, Katy drives 2 miles an hour along neighborhood roads. She keeps to the far right and lets other drivers pass.

“The first summer, (driving slowly) was really hard for me,” she said. She’s learned to put the van into first gear and keep her foot off the gas.

The worker in the front seat, usually one of her children, has the responsibility of waving at anyone they see along the way. They have learned to spot which people walking or riding bikes along the way are customers and not just out for a stroll.

Most of all, she finds the job very relaxing. Having someone in the passenger seat gives them the opportunity to talk along the way.

“I’ve learned a lot about my kids,” she said.

Collectively, the Byrneses have seven children. All of them have worked in the truck except the youngest, who is only 2 years old but comes along for the ride.

Katy’s daughter, Alice Nisbet, 14, hopes to take over the business when she turns 16.

Sweet & Savory has the typical treats: there are Fudgecicles, Creamcicles, Bomb Pops, Drumsticks, Sno Cones and the SpongeBob Squarepants. Most cost $1.50 or $2 and they have magnets to stick on the side of the van so they can take one down if they run out of it.

Depending on the weather, Byrnes can sell anywhere from 50 to 150 treats a day, from 4:30 to 8 or sometimes 9 p.m. On weekends, they go out for six hours, sometimes to small towns that may not have a regular ice cream truck, and they can sell anywhere from 350 to 400 treats.

The “savory” in the name comes into play for events like Hoopfest when they add items like potato chips.

Evan Ellison flagged down the truck recently to buy treats for his children, Chloe, 10, and Jace, 6.

Asked what her favorite cold treat was, Chloe said, “anything Oreo.” Her brother prefers sour treats.

On that same recent trip through the neighborhood, Byrnes spotted her own children riding bikes.

“No ice cream for you,” she joked as she leaned out of the van’s window. “Maybe after dinner.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.