BUCKTOWN — Neighbors showed up at The StopAlong Wednesday to eat ice cream and lend their support to a beloved ice cream vendor who police said was robbed at gunpoint this week.
Wilfredo Cintron, 82, has been a fixture in the Wicker Park, Bucktown and West Town neighborhoods since 1974, selling sweet treats from his bright blue ice cream truck.
Cintron and his 49-year-old son, Jay, were in a vehicle Tuesday on the 1900 block of West Superior Street when they were approached by a gray Hyundai by a person with a handgun who demanded their property before fleeing the scene, police and the Cintrons said.
No one was injured, and police are investigating.
In his 49 years as an ice cream vendor, this is the first time someone has threatened to hurt him, Cintron said.
“Thank God we are alive. I always tell my son, material things are not valuable but our lives are. It was just money. We will keep working,” Cintron said in Spanish.
Robert Magiet, co-owner of The StopAlong, 1812 N. Milwaukee Ave., said he wanted to support his friend after he found out what had happened.
“I was in disbelief, you know, so, right away the first thing I thought, I was looking at how we can help this guy,” Magiet said.
Magiet decided to pay it forward by paying for every neighbor’s ice cream from Cintron’s truck Wednesday and giving him the proceeds — $2,400 by the end of the day, Magiet said.
“He’s been a huge part of so many events that we put on over the last few years and you know, at our soccer league and more,” Magiet said.
Cintron got into the ice cream business when he moved from Puerto Rico to Chicago.
Anays Antongiorgi, who grew up in the Wicker Park area, said she has been buying ice cream from Cintron since she was a young girl.
“It’s great to see that he’s still committed,” said Antongiorgi, who came to The StopAlong Wednesday for ice cream. “He was always so sweet and so warm and welcoming.”
“Unfortunately, with life these days, you have to be a little more apprehensive to strangers who approach you, but he was sweet,” Antongiorgi said. “He wants to see the smiles on customers’ faces.”
Cintron said one of his favorite parts about working in the community is seeing customers who bought ice cream from him as kids start to bring their own kids to his truck.
“People know me here, it’s why I stayed,” Cintron said in Spanish. “The majority of people treat me very well.”
His son, Jay Cintron, said he won’t take after his father’s business but is here to “help him out now that he’s older.”
“They love him,” Jay Cintron said.
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