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- How Fort Lauderdale’s Richard Blech Got Into The Ice Cream Biz, Which Is Really Just The Business Of Making People Happy
How Fort Lauderdale’s Richard Blech Got Into The Ice Cream Biz, Which Is Really Just The Business Of Making People Happy
After three decades spent in law and accounting, Richard Blech says farewell to the business world and hello to “Good Humor.”
Frozen treats melt hearts. Just ask Richard Blech, owner of The Vintage Ice Cream Guys. Visits from the Good Humor ice cream man melted Blech’s heart when he was just a kid. Now at 52, Blech and his restored Good Humor trucks have been making it happen for other ice cream lovers in New York and Florida.
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Blech earned his accounting and business management degree from Long Island University in 1986. He worked as an accountant before earning his doctorate from Touro Law Center in 1995 and becoming a managing partner at a New York law firm specializing in financial matters.
Meanwhile, having fallen in love with Fort Lauderdale during a college spring break trip, Blech continued visiting the area regularly. In 2004, he and his wife purchased a Fort Lauderdale home. While looking forward to future retirement in South Florida and a life without all the stresses of number-crunching and law practice, Blech also found himself reflecting upon the past.
When Blech was a child, his grandfather Al and cousin Linda both drove ice cream trucks. One of Blech’s most powerful early memories is of his own neighborhood Good Humor man.
“His truck would come by the park near my house every day after school,” he says. “My friends and I would take off running the minute we heard those bells ringing.”
Over the years, as Blech worked as an attorney and accountant, the iconic ice cream truck gave way to freezer cases in stores on every corner. Still, Blech’s own “ice cream memories” remained poignant, “but they were always about more than just ice cream,” he says. They were about the excitement of hearing those classic bells. About eagerly watching the white-clad Good Humor man, with his snappy blue bow tie and ever-present metal coin-changer, present you with a toasted almond, strawberry shortcake, chocolate éclair—or Blech’s own childhood favorite, a grape popsicle.
“Getting ice cream from the Good Humor man was such a total experience,” Blech says. “It makes people smile. I suddenly realized that not everyone needs an attorney, but everyone needs the ice cream man.”
Convinced of this, in 2004 Blech began what would become a decade of research on how to assemble and restore a fleet of three “real-deal, not replica” yesteryear Good Humor trucks. Blech partnered with businessman Jorge Fernandez, and in 2014, they launched The Vintage Ice Cream Guys. Their company uses the original Good Humor trucks to deliver classic Good Humor ice cream bars and treats at special events of all sizes, ranging from weddings and other celebrations, to charity drives, corporate events and major auto shows. At every venue, Blech says he and Fernandez don their white suits and offer up friendly, old-fashioned service—invariably evoking nostalgia and smiles.
“Children just love the truck and the whole experience,” Blech says. “Older customers have childhood stories to tell.”
Their stories are about their moms throwing tissue-wrapped coins from upstairs windows to help them get to the truck on time. They’re about writing their names and tallying their ice cream purchases on the porcelain-sided trucks all week—then licking their fingers to erase their debt once they paid on Friday. The stories vary, Blech says, but people’s joy in telling them never does.
Neither does Blech’s enthusiasm for his new career. Although he continues to work with select legal clients, Blech gladly spends far more time these days tooling down Florida’s I-95 in his Good Humor truck, headed to an event. “It isn’t just that I love ice cream,” he says. “I love that ice cream makes people happy.”