By Matthew Wagner
The characteristic music signaling the arrival of “the ice cream man” is a powerful thing. It causes people of all ages to stop what they’re doing, scramble for spare change, and frantically chase the colorful truck down the street.
Knowing our obsession with delicious cold treats — especially during the Ojai Valley’s hottest months — Chris Crossett has run the Ojai Ice Cream Truck on and off for the last 20 years.
Born and raised in Ojai, Crossett had to make a job change in his adult life after his mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. An ice cream truck seemed to fit in with his schedule, and seemed like a good purchase and source of income. “I noticed that there was no ice cream man in Ojai,” Crossett said. “I thought it would be something cool and fun for Ojai. Plus, I could take my kids with me.”
Over the years, Crossett has come to know his customers well. “It is fun to watch people that I used to serve when they were children, come out with their kids and buy ice cream from me,” he said. Crossett, who used to bring his children on the truck with him to serve ice cream, now enjoys teaching his grandkids the ropes. “My kids learned how to work at a young age,” said Crossett, who has six children and eight grandchildren. “They learn everything from counting back money to customer service.”
There are certain places that the ice cream truck does not venture. “I do not do the East End. It is very hard to do under-populated areas. At the same time, it is hard to go down over-populated areas as well. With the big truck it causes traffic blocks,” said Crossett.
There are different times for different parts of the year that he goes out. “During the school year I start at a quarter to three, normally from 3 to 5 p.m. During the summer I start at noon,” said Crossett. All together Crossett keeps more than 40 flavors of ice cream on the truck at any time.
Crossett has a helper, Lexi May, who helps him on Tuesdays and Fridays. “I truly have fun with it, I hope I am doing something for the community and that people enjoy what I do,” said Crossett. “I do not plan on retiring. If I have any luck I’ll be having my great-grandkids on my truck.”