Even During a Pandemic, We All Scream For Ice Cream

Paola Lobaton is attending an 11-year-old who ordered cookies and cream avalanche.

Keyri Andrea Bermudez, Editor

Jingle-Jangle music blasts from the ice cream truck as Paola Lobaton rounds the corner on SW 5th Ave in Hallandale. A crowd of school-age children and their parents form in a line and start shouting their orders.  

They come fast: Strawberry shortcake. A big dipper. Hot chips. Choco taco. Airheads.  

Lobaton, wearing rubber gloves, hands them their orders, and takes their payment. After tearing off the wrapper, customers lift their masks before diving into their treats. 

It’s an ice cream truck business COVID style. 

“I never serve anyone unless they have a mask,” said Lobaton. 

Lobaton and her husband, Marcos Dajes, own two ice cream trucks. Ever since COVID started, sales have been very low and work has been even slower.  Because their suppliers can’t get the products they sell, she and her husband haven’t been able to keep a stock of treats. So, Lobaton’s sales have slipped, which is affecting them money-wise.

“The things we buy aren’t being sold because the companies aren’t making the products,” she said. “This hasn’t just affected my husband and me, but also others. Out of all the materials we buy we are selling only 30%.”

Lobaton estimates she serves 50-90 people each day, depending on if customers have a special occasion such as birthdays, parties, etc. When the state of Florida went into lockdown in March, Lobaton didn’t work much. She was afraid to catch the virus, so she cut her workdays back to three instead of every day. 

“I was afraid to get infected, not just that, but I was scared I could risk my kids,” said Lobaton.

 When the state allowed for essential workers to start back working, she was nervous to return.

 “But, I started going out little by little, adjusting to the new environment,” she said. 

When Lobaton started working she took precautions such as wearing gloves and a mask, cleaning her gloves with hand sanitizer, and disinfecting the table she served her customers.

Not just to protect herself, but her family as well. After every customer, Lobaton says her costumers have adjusted to the new safety guidelines as well. 

“Every time someone buys, they are already wearing their masks, even if there are many people they know to make a line with space between them,” she said.

Her customers are very respectful and follow the safety precautions, so Lobaton doesn’t stress about telling them to put a mask on or stay six feet apart. They are thankful just to have ice cream treats. 

“After they finish, they thank me, mentioning how grateful they are for me to be working and selling goods to them,” said Lobaton. “And that really touches my heart and motivates me to go on and continue.”

In the summertime, she and her husband used to allow some of their children to work with them. 

“But not anymore because of this whole pandemic,” she said.

To make up for the money they’ve lost, and to help cover the increase in the wholesale costs of their ice cream products, they had to raise prices. It ranges anywhere from a few cents to up to a $1 more. . “We started raising the price for our ice creams and candies because if we didn’t we were gonna lose a bit of money,” said Lobaton. “ We couldn’t allow that because we were already losing enough.” 

In order to keep working, essential workers have to follow certain guidelines such as wearing masks and gloves, washing their hands, using hand-sanitizer and disinfecting surfaces. At first, Lobaton didn’t have a problem following these procedures. But, after repeatedly using gloves and all the hand sanitizing took a toll.

“As weeks went by, I started getting itchy red marks at the top of my hand and behind my ear as well,” she said.  “I don’t know if it was allergies or the material was burning me.”

Even though she is suffering from red hands, dropped sales, and a lack of customers, she still has to continue working, because she has no choice. 

“I may be suffering from certain things,” said Loban. “But, I’m happy with what I do and I’ll continue working no matter what.”