A Family Affair: Ashland Kids Learn Real-Life Skills

Cynthia Whitty
An Ashland family works together.  Pictured (l to r): Jake, Janet, Joshua and Ken. (Photo/supplied)
Issue Date: 
May, 2019
Article Body: 

Parents often hope to teach their kids some real-life skills. A year ago, an enterprising Ashland family, Ken and Janet Erdelt, set out to do just that: they bought an ice cream truck and are teaching their kids what it is like to run a business.
“We started the business with two goals in mind—to provide an opportunity for our sons to earn money for school and college by operating the ice cream truck instead of trying to find summer jobs and to give them an opportunity to learn what it means to own and run a business,” Ken Erdelt, said.
“In May [2018] Janet made a suggestion to start the business after seeing an ice cream truck for sale on Facebook Market,” Ken said. “We initially laughed the idea away, but something kept drawing us back to it, and the idea gained momentum. Janet did all the research on trucks, state and town permitting processes, and ice cream suppliers and products. And we pulled the trigger to buy the truck and get started. We literally went from concept to reality within about 30 days. We made our debut route run and had our first customer on May 20.”
The family has had support for the truck, they call Refresshin’ Concessions, from their neighbors and friends and from the food truck community as well.
“Beth Reynolds [Ashland’s Director of Economic Development] has been especially helpful in making some initial connections for us in town and continuing to encourage us. Through Beth, we made an appearance at the opening day of The Corner Spot and that was a big boost to the business,” Ken explained. “People started talking about the business—the boys’ friends and classmates at Ashland High School were in awe of the business the boys were part of. We started up a Facebook page, word got out. We started getting calls to come to birthday parties, sporting events, bar-b-ques and corporate events.”
“Last year was our first year owning a ‘food’ truck, so we had lots to learn,” Janet said. “We learned about what events or type of events work and don’t work for us. We learned that the fall is unpredictable for sales with the fluctuating temperatures—so we may end the season a bit earlier this year and not book events past early October. We learned that ‘food truck’ vendors are a community and are very willing to help each other. We have received great advice from other vendors as we navigated our first season.”
This winter and spring the family has been gearing up for their second season.
“There are lots of things to prep in the off season,” Janet said. “We are doing some maintenance on the truck, updating all our permits, updating our website, and of course, scheduling. Events start scheduling as early as December for the following summer. Our season officially starts in May and we run into October.”
“We all drive and work the truck as needed,” Janet said. “I handle the ordering and inventory management of the ice cream, manage the schedule, and take care of getting all of the permits/certifications we need. Ken handles the truck repairs and maintenance, and drives the trucks to/from long-distance events. Jake and Joshua drive/sell in the neighborhoods and at events. They also help with inventory and social media accounts. For events, it is necessary for all of us to work the truck. It is truly a family affair!”
Their sons, Jake, 18, and Josh, 17, are learning more than business. “I have really liked interacting with different people that I wouldn’t normally get a chance to talk to. I have always been a bit shy, so I am surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed it,” Josh said.
“During the week we are in Ashland, driving the neighborhoods, attending local parties, concerts on the common or at The Corner Spot,” Janet said. “Last year we also serviced Framingham and Hopkinton and may add other towns to the list this year.”
Some events they are scheduled for include Metrofest, June 15; the Ashland Business Association/ Metrowest Y BBQ, August 6; the Ashland Dragonfly Festival, September 7; and Ashland Day, September 14.
“I enjoy every moment working with my family,” Janet said. “It allows us to share a common goal and to spend more time together. The most challenging thing has been coordinating everyone’s schedules. We allow everyone to have an equal voice so it can sometimes be challenging when we have differing opinions to get everyone to agree. Having our own business has been great for the boys to understand all the pieces involved. They have both always talked of having their own business one day so this is a great introduction for them.”