Prince Edward Island is about the last place you’d expect to encounter an H Van, but there one can be found parked at the corner of Church and Grafton streets in downtown Charlottetown, serving ice cream in all but winter weather.
It is owned and operated by Amanda Beaton and Jalen MacLeod, two islanders that returned to their roots with a desire to start a business serving South East Asian style Ice Cream, served with the freshest of PEI ingredients.
Amanda was born on P.E.I. but spent most her life in Western Canada before moving home two years ago. Her passion for ice cream came from first seeing the rolled ice cream technique in Calgary with her father. Jalen grew up on P.E.I. but spent five years in the Caribbean and Mediterranean working on boats. While working on a yacht in southern France for a couple of years he would see the occasional H Van in use over there. He was fascinated by the looks of them.
When it came time to deciding what vehicle they wanted to use for their ice cream business, they knew they wanted to do it in a means that would be just as eye-catching as their product. They decided they wanted to name their business “Truckin’ Roll” and operate from a ‘cool-looking’ vehicle but really knew nothing about Citroën H Vans! Jalen had to look online to discover that it was the H Van that caught his attention while in France. Once that was determined, it was an immediate “thumbs-up” when he showed pictures to Amanda.
Figuring that they didn’t want to just have a standard truck and the price point in the long run for an H Van would not be that much different than building a conventional food truck, the next step was to find one – which led them to contacting Catering Van Conversions, who specialize in converting vans and trailers into mobile food units. They are in Astore Park, Peterborough in the UK, have done H Vans in the past, and were willing to prep a teal-coloured 1958 H Van for Amanda and Jalen’s requirements.
About six months after placing the order, and juggling the logistics of what they wanted and how to get it to Canada while on a backpacking vacation in South East Asia (mainly Thailand), the vehicle arrived in Halifax, complete with “Truckin’ Roll” logos on the sides and ready to operate.
The first challenge was to get it to PEI. Amanda recalls; “We trucked it to Charlottetown and then it took us about two hours and seven mechanics to figure out how to even get it started! Choke knob, starter button… we had no knowledge of how you drive an old truck like that.” With some due diligence they finally figured it out but really haven’t driven it very much to date. One of the reasons was having to get road insurance given that the H Van would be a stationary vehicle in Charlottetown. Only three spots are allocated for food trucks by the city and they are ones you are grandfathered into. “We wanted to ensure that we had a high-profile in the city and on the street. We were fortunate to ultimately get one of the three allocated spots.” says Jalen, “Otherwise food truck operators have to secure locations in private spaces like a Canadian Tire parking lot.
Because they got the vehicle from the UK they have had to use an inverter for North American power. Fortunately they can tie into a nearby power pole with a buried cable, so there is no need for generator. On board they have three sinks (two for dishwashing, one for hand washing), a freezer, a fridge and the ice cream machine which is really a cooling system for the cool surface they use to make the ice cream.
Rolled ice cream is made by putting a liquid cream base down on a -22° cold metal plate. Jalen notes; “Unlike companies like Cold Stone Creamery that scoop already made ice cream onto a 0° plate. We only add natural ingredients. In fact, you can see exactly what you were getting in the ice cream. It’s similar to making a crepe but with a drastically different temperature!”
Jalen and Amanda truly care about their product. Amanda is emphatic; “If I wouldn’t put it in my body it isn’t in our ice cream. Each ice cream takes about two minutes to hand craft.” The bases that Truckin’ Roll offers are dairy and coconut, giving anyone who is dairy-free a chance to enjoy a chilled treat. “We use dairy base ADL cream. We don’t use any white processed sugar, we sweeten with P.E.I. Maple Syrup Company, our non-dairy base is coconut cream,” says Amanda.
Ingredients like fresh berries and brownies are locally sourced and are put on top of the chosen base and chopped rapidly till the liquid has crystalized . Then the mixture is flattened and at just the right moment the ice cream is scraped off the cold plate and forms rolls which are placed into a container and garnished with toppings to make exotic offerings like The Tragically Hipster made with Penny’s Farms Island strawberries and graham cracker with Liquid Gold’s balsamic drizzle. Or try their Chocolate Affair featuring a vegan chocolate brownie and cocoa stirred up along with a homemade chocolate drizzle.
Are they happy with their choice of the H Van? Absolutely! “We love the truck,” Amanda and Jalen exclaim; “It’s a real drawing card for our business. We have people coming over to take a picture with the H Van, and we are quirky enough individuals that it is the perfect complement to what we do. In fact, it helps to further differentiate us from the other shops downtown that offer just regular ice cream. Business has been phenomenal. Will be adding a second ice cream machine in the truck this winter because last year we had people waiting over an hour! It’s nice to be popular. We are looking to put another one on the road!”
So, if you are visiting PEI, keep an eye out for the Truckin’ Roll H Van. Chances are you’ll see Amanda and Jalen doing what they love in a vehicle they have come to truly cherish. And hopefully you won’t have to wait too long for a taste of authentic Truckin’ Roll ice cream!
Check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/truckinrolledicecream/