“Working Life’ series
King of Ice Cream cools Redondo Beach
Originally published on August 16 in the Easy Reader News
Thirteen years ago Kabir Bashir moved to the South Bay with a dream. He wanted to own his own business. With seven kids at home and an extended family – all from Afghanistan – living in Los Angeles, Bashir needed to find a job to support his family.
His friend had an idea.
“You wanna make good money?” Bashir recalled his friend asking. “You can buy an ice cream truck and you’re gunna be nice.”
After working odd jobs in the area, Bashir saved up enough money, bought an old ice cream truck and learned the ropes of being an ice cream man.
First, he had to find out where to buy the cheapest wholesale ice cream. Then, he had to figure out all the rules and regulations about owning a food truck, which, Bashir said, wasn’t easy. He had to buy a parking permit from the city, figure out how health inspections worked, and battle for turf with other ice cream trucks.
“I like the freedom of it,” said Bashir. “To tell you the truth, if I get another job for $3,000 a month, I wouldn’t take it. This is my own job.”
He drives his truck he calls “USA Ice Cream,” through well-worn roads, stopping in neighborhoods where he knows kids live.
“My old ice cream truck was embarrassing,” said Bashir, while driving around North Redondo with “Old Susannah,” playing from a rectangular speaker in the front of his truck. “Once when I was new, somebody called the police and said, ‘There’s a child abductor in Redondo Beach in an ice cream truck.’ The police pulled me over and I said, ‘I have seven kids at home, I’m looking for customers, not kids. I have my own, come to my house and you will see that I have enough.’”
Bashir said the officer laughed and let him continue trolling the streets for customers.
Bashir’s kids grew-up working in the ice cream truck, but once they turned 13 they outgrew the job, Bashir said.
Now, Bashir drives alone. On the weekends, his 16-year-old son joins him for $50 a day.
“I love to be around kids and around the neighborhoods,” said Bashir. “Redondo Beach (has) nice people.”
Bashir, 46, starts his day around 5 a.m. He drives his car to Veterans Park to save a spot for his ice cream truck, and walks the five miles back to his home, stopping at 7-Eleven for a hot cup of coffee. He starts his ice cream route in his new truck, an Astro CL, around 2 p.m. every day. He often schedules stops with summer camps or schools where parents give their kid’s money to spend on ice cream on certain days of the week.
“It’s the highlight of her day,” Christa Nuber said during a stop at a day camp at Wilderness Park, as her daughter stood in line for a Bugs Bunny-shaped ice cream. “She gets so excited when she hears the music. She can hear it so well, like dogs and fire engines.”
Bashir also frequents soccer games, baseball games and the beach. Most of his route is familiar territory where he has known the kids and their families for years.
“These kids are all grown up,” said Bashir while pointing to a ranch-style blue house by Anderson Park. “She’s a teacher now, and he does pharmacy.”
Later in the afternoon, Bashir spotted a young boy waiting on the curb outside a house.
“Is your mom not home yet?” Bashir asked the boy.
“No, she’s running late,” the kid answered.
“You want a candy?” Bashir asked. The kid nodded and Bashir parked the truck and rummaged in the back.
“Licorice belts, right?” he asked, before throwing the kid a free piece of candy and continuing on his way.
A grainy “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” blasted from the speaker as he continued around the neighborhood, followed by the Christmas tune, “Silent Night.” Bashir kept his eyes on the rear-view mirror. He has a keen sense for the need for ice cream.
Two blocks away he saw a mom with two kids. The kids tugged on the mother’s sleeve. Bashir didn’t slow down.
“They never have money for ice cream,” he said. “I only stop if the parent will buy or I know the kid.”
When he does stop, the kids pointed to different parts of the white metal truck and he instantly knew which treat they wanted. He stuck his hand into the freezer and pulled out the desired bar or cone.
“It’s not an easy job,” said Bashir. “People think it’s an easy job, easy money, it’s not. You have to have big patience for kids. Sometimes they say a lot, ‘Wait…no,’ and change their minds a lot.”
Throughout the course of the day, Bashir sat down and stood up more than a hundred times all while keeping his eyes peeled for families he knows or kids clutching ice-cream money.
Around 4 p.m. he stopped at the beach and parks. At the beach, a family walked up to him and remorsefully admitted they bought ice cream from his competitor.
“We didn’t see you,” the mom explained. “You’re usually the only one we buy from!”
For Bashir, the sale is a loss, but the mother’s words comfort him and he knows next time they will buy their sweet treats from him. He has many regulars and knows every street in the neighborhood.
“North, south, east, west, I know everywhere,” said Bashir. “But Redondo Beach is so big, I can’t go everywhere. I just go to certain places.”
Because of Bashir’s knowledge of the area, he said he is well-known within the police department for keeping an eye on the area. Once, Bashir said he noticed a man sleeping for hours in a car. He thought the man was dead, so he stopped and called the police. They came to the area and attempted to wake the man up.
“The police go to the car and say, ‘Wake up, wake up!’ He was alive, but the police said he was on drugs and arrested him.”
Bashir said that he has also been known to reports kids’ behavior to parents.
“Once I was giving kids ice cream and some kids said, ‘Hey ice cream man,’ and shot me in the face with a water gun,” said Bashir. “I chased them all over the neighborhood and all four ran like crazy. I called the police and they said, ‘What you gunna do? Do you want an ambulance? Do you want them arrested?’ No, I didn’t. I told police to tell the parents what happened. The next day the kids came and said ‘We apologize for everything we have done.’ From that day on, I never had a problem with kids or with the police.”
According to Bashir, many ice cream trucks come in and out of Redondo Beach.
“They can’t make it because the parents trust me,” said Bashir. “They know me and they trust me, my kids go to school with their kids. Everybody knows me.”
When Bashir drove into Veterans Park, the other ice cream man moved to another area. According to Bashir, they’re close friends, not competitors. But Bashir considers himself the king of ice cream. “Most of the people, they come to me.”
He works year-round, regardless of the weather. Even when it’s cold, he is able to sell his frosty treats. He said he often makes around $200 to $300 a day. He sells candy, ice cream and some toys ranging from 10 cents to $3.
When the sun began setting with a warm orange hue, Bashir was still trolling the streets. “When the Saints Go Marching In,” blared from his speaker. The music is white noise to Bashir, although when he first started working, he heard it in his dreams.
He turned the corner to a neighborhood he knows that many kids live in. He made a circle around the cul-de-sac and when he reached the exit, a swarm of kids were waiting to buy a treat.
“What’s up Tony?” he asked a kid clutching two dollars. Before the kid uttered a word, Bashir apologized. “I’m sorry, I don’t have the lemon pop. I forgot to put it in the truck.”
Tony scrunched up his face to read the other ice cream options and settled on something new. It only cost $1.50.
“With the rest you can get a sour belt?” Bashir said.
“Yeah!” the kid answered and ran home, ice cream and candy held tight in his hands, where his dad was waiting.