BUCKTOWN — Wilfredo Cintron has served ice cream to Bucktown families for decades, keeping prices low even as the neighborhood gentrified and prices for supplies went up.
Now, neighbors are stepping up to help Cintron replace the generator on his ice cream truck.
A replacement generator costs $5,000. A GoFundMe fundraiser created by neighbors Steve Adolph and Ellen Zfaney has already raised more than $2,300.
“I feel grateful and good that people are helping me back,” Cintron said in Spanish. “I served a lot of these people for many years. I’m happy to have the people see me as a friend, someone to give money to.”
Cintron got into the ice cream truck business in the 1970s after moving to Chicago from Puerto Rico. He’s had his own truck for 42 years.
Cintron started off selling cones for $1. And he never raised the price.
That was purposeful, said his, son Jonathan Cintron.
“He doesn’t push the price,” he said. “A lot of people he sold to don’t have more than a dollar to give. … He feels bad for a lot of people who don’t have money.”
Other truck items are reasonably priced, too. A large “double header” cone is $1.50, a waffle cone is $3 and a cup is $1 or $1.50, depending on toppings. Ice cream comes in three flavors: vanilla, chocolate and swirl.
Cintron has driven his truck throughout various Northwest Side neighborhoods, including Bucktown, Wicker Park, Humboldt Park and Hermosa. He said he favors Bucktown because neighbors there are friendly.
“When you work in the streets, you see a lot of rude people,” he said. “That community, it’s really nice. People talk to me. Tell me to ‘have a nice day.'”
Jonathan Cintron helped his dad this summer and saw the community’s kindness firsthand. He met many Bucktown neighbors who have small children of their own but said they have memories of Wilfredo serving them ice cream when they were children.
One man brought a $50 bill to the truck and said, “Here’s a tip for your dad.”
Adolph, Zfaney and their 7-year-old son, Zach, also are longtime fans. Earlier this summer, Cintron’s truck was making loud noises due to the older generator, prompting the Adolphs to help and urge their neighbors to reciprocate Cintron’s generosity and commitment to keeping prices low.
“In this world, where you have Jeni’s [Splendid Ice Creams] — and no disrespect to Jeni’s — where you can’t even get two cones for $10 … he should be charging $4 a cone,” Adolph said. “Think of all the dollars the community has saved through the years. Why don’t we pitch in and help this man who’s so hard-working, help him fix his truck?”
Seeing the fundraiser grow was “heartwarming,” Jonathan Cintron said.
“Seeing a smile on his face when he sees how much people are willing to give … it feels really good,” he said. “People really love my dad.”
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