Growing up on a North Dakota farm, ice cream was the center of many happy memories for Shelia Happel. She remembers going out with her twin sister and her father to help him check his fields. After they finished, he would drive them to town for ice cream.
“My grandpa, too, would dish up ice cream for us, and we would be silly and dance around the kitchen, singing, ‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream,’” she said. “Ice cream just makes people happy. You celebrate with ice cream.”
So when she and her husband Jason Happel, who live in rural Solon, decided to start their own ice cream truck business, Moo Moos Ice Cream, those memories from the farm became central to their business plan.
Their ice cream trucks don’t serve the novelty ice cream treats and push-up pops ubiquitous on trucks across the country. Instead, they serve all Iowa-made ice cream, with the goal of supporting the Iowa dairy farmers who make that ice cream possible.
“It was important to me just because I grew up watching my dad work so hard, day in and day out. Now our son is 24 and is taking over the family farm in North Dakota. Being able to support farmers in Iowa, to me it was just not a question at all,” Sheila Happel said.
Children — and adults — who hear their music and run out to their trucks will find treats like ice cream from Ely-based Dan & Debbie’s Creamery and Le Mars-based Blue Bunny, ice cream sandwiches from Des Moines-based Thelma’s Treats, and Kalona bars — chocolate and graham cracker-covered treats — from Yotty’s Ice Cream Shop of Kalona. Both Thelma’s and Yotty’s use Iowa-based Anderson Erickson ice cream. The trucks also sell Woofables dog treats from Coralville.
“It was just very important to me that we go about this differently and not just have novelty items you can buy anywhere but have things that really support Iowa,” Happel said. “We want to support Iowa-made ice cream.”
Jason Happel drove an ice cream truck in college, which is where the idea for the business came from.
“He has lots of memories of doing it — he loved seeing the excitement of the kids,” Shelia Happel said. “And we wanted to be able to do a business with our children — we have five boys between 8 and 24 years old. This is something they can have fun with as well and be able to learn from.”
They bought a small fleet of five trucks and have hired drivers to take on different routes throughout the Corridor.
One truck is dedicated to Iowa City, one to Coralville and North Liberty, two to Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha and Marion and another to Solon and surrounding small towns. They’ve also signed up for summer events like the Iowa Arts Festival and Jazz Festival in Iowa City, the Freedom Festival in Cedar Rapids and hopefully the Cedar Rapids Farmers Market.
“We decided to go big or go home,” Happel said with a laugh.
The trucks started rolling about a month ago, and they’re still hiring drivers.
The couple are taking their own shifts driving the trucks on the weekends, when they’re not working their other, full-time jobs.
“At first, I said I am not driving a truck — I’ll do any of the office stuff. My husband said, just try it once,” Happel said. “When I went out, the excitement and seeing the joy — not even just for the kids but for the parents — was so amazing … We’re about embracing the ice cream truck traditions but also supporting community happiness by creating lasting memories.”
Comments: (319) 398-8339; email@example.com
• What: Moo Moos Ice Cream
• Where: Moo Moos trucks drive routes in Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Cedar Rapids, Solon and other small towns in the Corridor.
• Details: (319) 775-3003, MooMoosIceCreamTruck.com