Chris Getoor reflects on his experience running his ice cream truck Hang Loose Helado. From helping out Inky Santa to his fire-spinning ice cream truck driver, Chris runs an interesting business with a passion for giving back to its community. Read on to learn more about the man behind the truck.
For those who don’t know, what is Hang Loose Helado?
“Helado means ice cream in Spanish. Hang Loose Helado is a traditional ice cream truck serving the Nantucket community in a number of ways. All the ice cream we have is the traditional pre-packaged favorites that everyone grew up with (like Good Humor products). We do year-round neighborhood routes in the afternoons, weddings and private events, and events for sports teams and schools. We even have weekly visits to local businesses like Don Allen.”
How did you come up with the idea for Hang Loose Helado?
“With this being a beach community, me being a surfer, and being as connected as I am to the ocean, I just thought that throwing a sort of surfer vibe on it made sense. I wanted to have it be a cool ice cream truck as opposed to the stereotypical ones, and that’s even reflected in the music we play like James Brown.”
Instead of the jingle?
“Exactly. We didn’t buy an ice cream truck. We bought a van and carved a hole in the side of it. So, it’s an ice cream truck made by Nantucketers for Nantucket, and I wanted the logo to have the island on it to reflect that aspect. I’m all in, you know, I can’t turn around and sell this thing on the Cape because they’ll be like, ‘what the heck is that?’ Either we make it on Nantucket or we don’t.”
When did you start Hang Loose Helado?
“We were on the road June 1st of 2020. It was right in the height of the lock-down situation, which was a lot of fun because everyone was stuck at home and people were really excited and happy to see the truck pull up to their front door. That was a really nice takeaway from last year for me.”
What was your reason for starting Hang Loose Helado?
“I had been working on it for about a year; permitting takes a lot of time and energy here on Nantucket. Then, I actually paused for a little bit during Covid because I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to be able to start during the pandemic. My goal was to get a secondary source of income and face the challenge of starting a personal business, but I also wanted to do something that made people happy.”
How’d you come up with the idea for Hang Loose Helado?
“I was getting my haircut at Scissorhands, and Richard and I were looking out the window at the new Old South Road playground and talking about how busy and diverse the playground was. At one point, I was just like, ‘Man, if you had an ice cream truck, you would crush it over there,’ and out of that conversation in the chair I decided, ‘you know what, this is actually a good idea; I’m going to do it.’ It’s pretty rare, you know, on Nantucket, to find an unfilled void for a business, and it’s interesting because, nationally, it’s kind of a dying industry.”
Yeah! It seems like when I was a kid, there were maybe a couple, but they all kind of died out.
“My friend drove one, back in your day when you were super young, just for a summer or two. Also, I think before him there were two people that opened ice cream trucks at the same time and ran each other out of business. Although, I think now is the perfect time to start one.
How hard was it getting the truck approved?
“It had its challenges. One thing that made it a bit easier was that we weren’t preparing food, so we didn’t really have to be attached to a commercial kitchen. When we got to the Select Board, everyone could really see that it’s a business that brings actual legitimate value to the community. Also, it’s kind of an old-school business that people have some nostalgia and appreciation for. So, ultimately, once it got to the Select Board it was unanimously approved.”
What’s one of the best lessons you’ve learned from starting Hang Loose Helado?
“From a pure personal challenge standpoint, the idea of entrepreneurship. Starting an idea from inception to completion and then figuring out after the first year how to adapt the business so it continues to grow has been really rewarding for me. My experience has really given me a whole new appreciation for every restaurant owner, plumber, etc: all of us on Nantucket are working so hard to start our own businesses to support our families. Additionally, just how much risk and how much reward is involved when it all comes together was definitely something I took away from the experience.”
How would you describe Hang Loose Helado’s success so far?
“It has been incredible. You know, financially it has exceeded my expectations, which were actually super high. So, it’s definitely an effort that’s worth sustaining. More importantly, I think especially during Covid it just made people so happy. We worked with the Inky Santa during Christmas. They couldn’t have their fundraiser where Santa comes and people sit on his lap, so we had Santa drive around and give out ice cream. People couldn’t go trick-or-treating last year for Halloween, so the ice cream truck drove around and gave out free ice cream and candy in place of trick-or-treating. We’ve done a lot of charitable things too. I want it to be a business that’s giving back to the community and making people happy. So, I think that’s something we’re doing very well, and it feels super successful and like something that will hopefully be here for a long time.”
Has your work at Strong Wings contributed to your motivation to start the ice cream truck?
“Totally! I’m so well connected with a lot of island families, and working with kids and families is a spot that’s rewarding for me and feels very comfortable. It seemed like a very natural fit.”
Could you talk about how you came to the island and how you started at Strong Wings?
“I started coming out here when I was 18 working at the Hub. I just came out here for college summers to work, and, after college, I would work as hard as I could over the summer, save as much money as I could, and then travel for the rest of the year. When I decided to plant some roots, I wanted to do it here. I started teaching at the New School. I taught Spanish and Ecology for three years. Then I just happened to luck into the Strong Wings job. They advertised for an outdoor educator at Strong Wings, and I met with the founder. We really hit it off and he was like, ‘I’m going to hire you as the assistant executive director, you can work under me for five or six years then I’ll hand you the reins.’ He hired me in June and then he left in December. So, it was a quick transition from employee to leadership, but I couldn’t ask for a more rewarding, more fulfilling job.”
How did you come up with the idea to give free ice cream to the kids at the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club (NBGC)?
“We work with all of the island’s summer camps, and the club has so many children. So, we liked the idea of providing ice cream to them without having everyone have to show up with cash. Last year, the club worked with some of the independent businesses on the island to sponsor that sort of event. They would reach out to a business and ask, “would you want to sponsor a week of ice cream visits?” This year, Sully actually reached out to me on Facebook and asked if he could be a guest driver, handing out ice cream to as many people as possible. The more I thought about it the more I realized that the way to have the biggest impact and brighten the day for the largest number of kids would be to find a place like the NBGC and do it there. In turn, it became a great way to leverage Fisher’s generosity as efficiently as possible.”
Do you have anything planned for Hang Loose Helado this summer?
“Our plan is to create as many smiles as we possibly can! Generally, we run the afternoon routes, we’ll be at Cisco Brewery consistently, we’ll be at the island’s camps, and we’ll be visiting a lot of local businesses on a regular basis. Also, our primary driver, Clayton, spins Poi, which is a New Zealand performance art – basically fire spinning. He’s really talented and has a ton of skills. So, we’re going to start doing these shows, we call them “Fire and Ice,” where he’ll go to a location and put on a cool fire show and people can buy ice cream and just enjoy the show. It’ll be cool; we’re going to do it in a couple of random locations. We’re also hoping that people will be interested in hiring us for events, weddings, and barbecues as a service for your whole catered dessert menu and unique entertainment.”
What’s the best way to stay informed about Hang Loose Helado?
The Hang Loose Helado Facebook page and Instagram usually post our routes and where we’ll be located. We also have the business phone number on those pages as well. I think just following us on social media is the best way to be in touch and see what’s upcoming.
Joey Bresette: Born and raised here on Nantucket, Joey is currently attending Santa Clara University, and plans on majoring in mathematics and economics. He loves all things water-related, stemming from his life growing up on the island and his past job as a lifeguard. If he’s not out assisting with marketing or helping agents here at Fisher, you can find him surfing, fishing, or going to the beach with his family!