Mr. Softee In China

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 | |

Im not a huge fan of Mr. Softee but it is one of those things that seems quintessentially New York. The NYTimes reports that they're expanding their powdery cold empire into China, land of the lactose intolerant. Read the whole article here.

For more than half a century, Mr. Softee has been as synonymous with New York summers as open fire hydrants, its blue and white trucks and instantly recognizable jingle luring children throughout the city, from Washington Heights to Coney Island.

New York being a tough town, Mr. Softee has also endured its share of bumps and bruises. It has fought about noise with the city, which no longer allows Mr. Softee trucks to play their jingle while parked.

The company hired private detectives to spy on Mr. Softee impersonators, and Mr. Softee drivers have gotten into verbal and even hand-to-hand battle with rival ice cream vendors.

Along the way, this quintessential New York institution has pursued an unlikely road to globalization...

"It happened almost by accident. An American working as an English teacher was walking around the streets of the city where he taught and noticed a deluge of American fast food franchises, but found nothing resembling the kind of soft-serve ice cream that his college roommate’s family had turned into a multimillion-dollar enterprise.

And that’s how Mr. Softee went to China.

Now this staple of New York City life is being served 7,000 miles away, on the streets of Suzhou, an ancient city of more than six million people about 50 miles west of Shanghai. Mr. Softee or Mr. Soft Heart, the English translation of “ruan xin xian sheng” — there is no Mandarin word for Softee — has been a hit, with sales doubling every year since the first truck started rolling three years ago...

"Customers like Meng Xiangbo, 19, a college student, have proved Mr. Conway right. He is a regular customer of the Mr. Softee truck that peddles its treats in Suzhou’s university district.

One recent balmy afternoon, Mr. Meng ordered a kiwi sundae.

“They have six flavors,” he said of the sundaes. “I eat a different one every day. On Sunday, I rest.”