Troubling times as inflation hits Philadelphia ice cream truck owners

There is trouble in dessert paradise as ice cream trucks struggle to make ends meet. Radwe says overhead is killing her.

"It cost me, like, 30 to 40 percent extra. 30 to 40. At the same time, the sales are not that much," Radwe said.

Ice cream and drinks are the culprits, she says, and even water is 50 percent higher. She did have the endangered Choco Taco, at $5. But, diesel fuel remains an expensive backbreaker that Abdul Ahad needs to power his Coyote Soft Serve generator all day long.

"My starting day is, like, $90 per day. Whenever I do something? You start with $90," Ahad said.

$15,000 for the truck, plus thousands more for customization work inside. That was two years ago. Anyone interested? Make him an offer. "Yeah, I’m trying to sell the truck. But, I don’t think anybody wants to pay me the money."

On the other side of the Waterworks fountain, Frank McDonald had his Kandy Ices truck set up. Frank serves ices in pineapple or coconut half-cups garnished with gummies and other treats and that’s just some of it.

But, margins are thinner. Fruit costs more, as so cups and spoons. Frank says only hard work bridges the gap. "The difference is definitely coming out of my elbow grease, because I have to do a lot of the cutting, on the spot. Some of it, we do prep it, but most of the time, we get so many customers, we don’t have time to do that. So, we basically cut it right on the spot and some customers like to see that."

Frank believes serving a singular product and shifting to what he calls, "Hot Kandy" when it cools off will set him apart. He knows there are no guarantees. A boss at Mister Softee said the industry is subject to the same dynamics everything else is and he left it at that. Nobody wants $5 Choco Tacos, no matter how rare they are.