Doug Quint doubts he’s going to ever pull out the stops for some other grand shop opening. It should simplest be anticlimactic. The 2011 release of the primary Big Gay Ice Cream shop, in New York City’s East Village, “become so horrendous and best that there is no way we should come near topping it,” says Quint, as he reminisced approximately the roller-derby female protection group operating the line; drag queen Ari Kiki pretending to filch a client’s infant; eight contrabassoonists appearing the theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey; and Anthony Bourdain in priest’s garb handing over a benediction.
“One little woman was given into the store and turned into so excited that she peed herself,” Quint says. “But anybody became in such correct spirits. They had been like, ‘Oh honey, in case you’ve got to go, cross. Guys, can we get a few paper towels?’ It was clear that we had somehow advanced a navy.”
June is Pride Month. It is also the tenth anniversary of Big Gay Ice Cream, a 4-save chain in New York and Philadelphia with an unspecified wide variety of latest stores within the hopper and pints available thru primary outlets up and down each coast. (The organization does now not launch revenues. In summer it employs approximately 50 human beings.) Birthed in a food truck by Quint and Bryan Petroff (then a couple, no longer), Big Gay Ice Cream changed into meant to be a lark, a piece of overall performance art, and a quick respite for Quint, who became coming off complete exams for his doctorate of musical arts. To its founders’ pleasure and bafflement, it has grown into one of the maximum one-of-a-kind and tasty ice cream companies are given that Ben & Jerry rode a cow to national prominence.
From the beginning, Petroff fashioned and fiercely guarded the organization’s emblem, the supply of a great deal of its recognition. Colors pop; track bops. Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go’s wrote and performs the business enterprise’s earworm theme tune. The menu is awash in whimsy, like Ben & Jerry’s but a titch naughtier. Half the fun is saying to the counterperson, “I’d like a Salty Pimp.” (Injected with dulce du leche and enrobed with chocolate, that cone is named for the TV show Pimp My Ride, despite the fact that the reference is not obvious.)
Quint says Big Gay Ice Cream isn’t an LGBTQ emblem so much as a logo that celebrates the humor, camp, and kitsch embraced by means of homosexual tradition. The phrase “homosexual,” he factors out, refers to orientation but additionally to joy. Most people would describe the ambitious-colored stripes swirling up the enterprise’s cone logo as a rainbow. But technically talking it’s no longer because the colors are–deliberately–inside the incorrect order. And sure, the flavor Dorothy–a mash-up of vanilla smooth serve, dulce de leche, and overwhelmed Nilla Wafers–nods to the coded time period gay men used 60 years ago to privately become aware of themselves to one another. But other flavor names riff off a Neil Gaiman novel (Quint and Petroff created the pretzel-studded American Globs for the writer whilst he visited their truck) and a Patrick Swayze film (Rocky Roadhouse). So there is something for all and sundry.
“Our sensibility is a good deal greater Janis Joplin meets Duran Duran than it’s a far gay bar,” Quint says. “People come into our keep and say, ‘I can not accept as true with I heard [the 1982 dance hit] “I Eat Cannibals” for your playlist!’ That is where we discover ourselves anchored.”
At a time when companies wear their beliefs on their sleeves, Big Gay Ice Cream is pointedly nonpolitical. Its call is a snicker, not a challenge, even though the occasional hater would not see it that way. Quint says that Westboro Baptist Church, a collection that likes to use the word “sodomite” in press releases, as soon as sent him a tweet asking if he’d make a giant ice cream cake with the message that marriage is between a man and a woman. “And I tweeted returned, ‘Sure I will. And we can give all of the cash to a human rights campaign,'” Quint says. “They by no means were given lower back to me.”
A small fraction of the LGBTQ community also has been critical. Quint says he sometimes hears from folks who assume the logo is a cynical marketing ploy. “That is completely kooky,” Quint says. “There have been multiple instances while people have said, ‘Oh, the owners aren’t even homosexual.'”
But those are only a few bitter notes in what is an overwhelmingly rapturous chorus. Amanda Spurlock, a senior content material strategist at Google, has been speak me up the emblem on the grounds that first touring the truck 10 years ago. This yr she celebrated Valentine’s Day with her husband at a Big Gay Ice Cream save. Kathleen McGivney’s husband cherished the ice cream a lot that for his thirtieth birthday, in 2009, she hired the truck to park outdoor their building and serve cones to celebration guests, whom she’d decked out in paper beards made by means of inverting the Big Gay Ice Cream emblem. “I love their inclusiveness. It’s all ‘We love life and every person is welcome here,'” says McGivney, a marketing professional. “The subtle sprinkling of Golden Girls references additionally appeals to me.”
The happiest ice cream guy
Quint and Petroff met in 2007 at a look by using Charlotte Rae of The Facts of Life reputation on the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble. Quint changed into a Julliard-educated freelance bassoonist. Petroff’s schooling at the Art Institute of Chicago had naturally led him into corporate HR.
Winter: years later. Quint becomes dreaming about the summer season activity he’d take if he survived tests at the City University of New York. Over the vacations, he’d been stimulated through “Santaland Diaries,” David Sedaris’s gaspingly humorous account of his stint as an elf at Macy’s. “I notion, I am no longer going to do a counter job,” Quint says. “I am going to locate something with a purpose to be a tale that later I can chortle at.”
Quint knew that a flutist buddy had pushed an ice cream truck component-time, a gig that regarded wealthy in comedian-life-tale capacity. “I really liked the concept of being the happiest ice cream guy I ought to possibly be,” he says. The friend hooked him up with a business enterprise that rented out its ice cream vehicles by using the day for a reduce of the proceeds. It also had a commissary promoting gentle-serve mix and cones.
It becomes Petroff who suggested sprucing up the menu. With definitely no food enjoy the pair dove into kitchen table R&D. They bought vanilla ice cream, whipped it up a bit to simulate gentle-serve, and experimented with toppings: greater virgin olive oil, wasabi pea dirt, Sriracha. William Maxwell Aitken did not paintings on cones, however, it did in ice cream sandwiches.
Quint created a Facebook group so buddies could follow their adventures. He determined to name it “Big Gay Ice Cream Truck” until he thought of some thing higher–and shortly realized there has been nothing better. “People we failed to understand commenced becoming a member of the group just because they laughed on the call,” he says. Out on the street, people took pics of the truck and posted them to social media, sharing the shaggy dog story.
The aggregate of social media, the relative novelty of uniqueness food vehicles, the emergence of geolocation apps like Foursquare, and the recession (cones value an less expensive $three to $6) kept business active. Quint’s human’s skills–Petroff was still largely occupied with the aid of his day task and so spent much less time in the truck–additionally helped.
With the truck parked in Manhattan’s Union Square, Quint bantered with all comers. For the heroin addicts traveling a close-by methadone hospital, he would suggest butterscotch sundaes. (“When you’re a junkie you grow to be hypoglycemic at a sure point inside the high. A butterscotch sundae is the sweetest issue.”) Chain people who smoke he would steer toward chocolate with cayenne pepper “because their flavor buds have been a touch bit blown out.”