by Dennis Dalman
When Francis Gomes of Sartell drives down the street, you’d think the circus is in town. From his vehicle a cheerful merry-go-round music drifts upon the air.
And that’s when kids, parents and grandparents come running.
“It’s the ice-cream wagon!” kids shout, clutching their coins. “The ice-cream wagon’s coming!”
As Gomes opens his slide window for business, he leans out and sees wide smiles and big happy eyes. Then he takes their orders and dispenses his cold, luscious treats to his eager customers.
Gomes loves his job.
“It’s so much fun to see them,” he said. “Not just kids but parents, too. They’re all so happy. The youngest kids are in amazement as if they’d never seen an ice-cream truck before, and maybe some of them haven’t. And the grandparents are so much fun, too, because they always tell me my ice-cream vehicle reminds them of the happy summers when they were kids and the ice-cream wagon would come up the streets.”
Gomes, along with his wife, Shikha, is the owner of “Fun Time Ice Cream and Etc,” which he started recently. He reconverted an older mini-school bus into an ice-cream wagon and takes it on its daily rounds on the neighborhood streets of St. Cloud and Sartell.
Gomes sells pre-packaged ice-cream treats in 20 different forms: cones, bars, cups, ice pops – to name just three – in a wild variety of flavors, from blueberry to vanilla, from limey to chocolate. Some of the ice-cream treats come in the form of cartoon characters, such as Shrek and Batman.
Gomes also sells snacks such as potato chips, nacho chips and Cheetos.
His white vehicle is colorfully adorned with sticker illustrations of the treats within.
What inspired Gomes’ new business is a brother-in-law in North Carolina who also sells treats from a vehicle. He and his wife decided to give it a try, and so far he loves the job that makes so many people of all ages so happy. Gomes staffs the vehicle by himself, as his wife has a manager’s job at McDonald’s in Sartell. Gomes, now semi-retired, was himself for many years a McDonald’s manager at McStop in south St. Cloud.
Francis and Shikha, Sartell residents since 1993, hail from Bangladesh, a nation formed by the Ganges River delta on the southeast side of India. They have three grown children: Justina, who lives in Maryland and works for the Marriott Hotel chain; Christina, who lives in Savage and works for US Bank and son Lawrence, who works as a technical advisor for CBS-TV in Los Angeles.
Gomes said he is looking forward to the early summer days when school is out so he can see more happy children, more happy parents and more happy grandparents.