Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Big Hearted Ice Cream Guy

'As a kid, he sold his drawings door-to-door to neighbors on Colton Street. Many were willing to pay more than the price on the tags he attached to each artwork. At School he sold candy out of his backpack until the principal ordered him to stop. A determined entrepreneur, Karagiannis created a candy catalog with order forms – and sales increased.

Now, at 36, Karagiannis is sold on his city. So much so that he has built his ice cream cart business on serving the underserved.

On business days, Karagiannis and his crew leave the North Buffalo headquarters of Ice Creamcycles pedaling three-wheelers, each pulling an ice cream cart, to destinations on the East Side, West Side and Riverside. There, they sell ice cream and frozen novelties for $1 apiece.

“We’re driving through inner-city neighborhoods,” said Karagiannis, who started his business in 2007.

“When I first started, everyone said I should go to Elmwood Avenue, Thursday in the Square, Delaware Park. But I needed to be right here,” he said during a stop at a street corner in Central Park. “I like bikes. I like joking with the kids and exploring my city.”

With his reflector sunglasses and sneakers the color of a blueberry Popsicle, Karagiannis is a familiar sight in many parts of the city. There, he is known as James the Ice Creamcycle Dude.

But after almost a decade in business, Karagiannis still feels the sting when saying no to a kid who doesn’t have a dollar for ice cream. So he and his drivers keep a stash of freebies to give to children who cannot afford a frozen treat.

Still, nothing is free, he said. So he asks the youngster a math or history question.

Whose picture is this? he asks, unrolling a dollar bill from his pocket. Karagiannis hints heavily until the youngster answers correctly.

George Washington? the youngster says.