These Mister Softee guys, they think they’re the mafia — that they could rub everybody out… Martin Price, Kool Man ice cream driver.
Martin Price, a 57-year-old Kool Man ice cream man, has sold frozen treats on the streets of Queens, NY for nearly 39 years. According to the Queen’s Chronicle, threats of violence and thuggish tactics by a Mister Softee franchisee are driving him and his Kool Man ice cream truck off the road:
…a Mister Softee driver threatened him with violence after their routes began to overlap in Maspeth.
“He says he’s gonna rub me out. Now I’m Italian. When you rub me out — that means they’re gonna kill ya,” Price said. “He went after me in Maspeth with a baseball bat. Then he was gonna ice pick all my tires. He doesn’t care. He even threatened to burn the truck with me in it.”
Not one to take unnecessary risks, he gave in to the threats and pulled the plug on his Maspeth route.
But despite the shift in service and an investigation into his claims published by the Queens Chronicle last year, Price said that the threats haven’t just continued — they’ve expanded. He claims that two more Mister Softee drivers are now harassing him in both Middle Village and Glendale.
“These Mister Softee guys, they think they’re the mafia — that they could rub everybody out of the neighborhood,” Price said. “They think they own the streets. They keep threatening everybody.”
A Chronicle reporter rode along in a Kool Man truck and witnessed the harrassment firsthand, yet neither the police nor the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (the agency that provides Mister Softee its permits) have been willing to stem Mister Softee’s alleged reign of terror.
When contacted about the allegations, James Conway Jr., president of Mister Softee, basically dismissed the issue as Boys will be boys. He said “it was difficult to prevent driver disputes from the franchise’s New Jersey based headquarters. The company sells distribution rights to more than 350 dealers managing nearly 700 drivers nationwide.”
Perhaps Mr. Conway should be paying a bit more attention to remedying the problem. The amusing and quirky scenario has caught the eye of the media and promises to continue to spread. The story recently made the New York Times (Of Angry Threats and Summer Sales of Soft Ice Cream).
Having your franchise owners compared to a violent organized crime syndicate can’t be good for the kid-friendly Mister Softee brand.
Another reason might be to cutoff the potential for real violence – and the lawsuits that follow – that could result. While imagining an ice cream mascot turning gangster makes for an amusing story, people’s livelihoods are at stake here. Emotions are running high. If a tragedy results, “Boys will be boys” and “it’s difficult to prevent driver disputes” won’t sound too convincing in court.
Let’s hope Mr. Conway steps up to protect his brand, his franchise organization and his competitors by putting a stop to the alleged thuglike tactics of a few individuals acting under his trademark.
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