Village Life, Work

42 Years of A.C.’s Icees

The Grove Then and Now

First published 29 February 2021

In 2019, the Miami City Commission designated January 26 as A.C.’s Icees Day, an annual event to celebrate the founding of Miami’s first food truck and its celebrated owner, Alan Cohen. This week, A.C.’s Icees Day marked 42 years since AC started the business at the same Kennedy Park location.

After visiting Miami for years to get away from the cold in his native Michigan, AC moved to Miami permanently in 1978. “The Grove was a beautiful place then,” he says. “It was just a little village. It was artists and music. We would pop up at the old Village Inn on Commodore Plaza late at night and jam, and it was pretty special.”

A lifelong athlete, AC used to run road races with friends, ending at Kennedy Park. The park needed a place to get a good drink after a run, they all agreed. Besides, having managed a pool maintenance business in Michigan with 150 employees, AC was ready for a new job. “Some of us were sitting under a tree in Kennedy Park,” he recalls, “and I said if I’m going to work again, I want this park to be my office.”

That was the origin of Miami’s first food truck. It took AC more than a year of negotiating with the City to get permission to operate in the Kennedy Park location. At first, he recalls, City staff said, “You can’t get permission to do that. But I don’t stop at ‘You can’t.’” City staff told him he couldn’t operate a concession because there was no concession building in the park. “I said, ‘Well, let’s make it a mobile concession.’”

Today AC himself isn’t a lot different from AC 42 years ago. He was vigorous and athletic then, and, except for the silver-gold color of his curly beard and hair, he looks much the same now. He credits that to gym workouts before Covid-19 and lifting heavy equipment for the food truck, combined with long bike rides, now.

A.C.’s Icees is a thriving business. The food truck in Kennedy Park is just the most visible aspect. Behind the scenes, there’s a 1,200-square-foot warehouse in Kendall, regular supplies of fruit and other products, and five employees whose workday starts early every morning. During the pandemic, the food truck’s hours in Kennedy Park are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“It’s always busy,” says AC. “When you do it right, they come. I make the best product, and I make it fresh every day. It’s all-natural juices.” The ices come in three flavors: lemonade, cherry, and pina colada, or mixtures of the three. Hungry customers can also buy New York style hot dogs, sandwiches, and a line of A.C.’s Icees products that includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, and ultimate frisbees.

Generations of families make regular pilgrimages to A.C.’s Icees. AC is close friends with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Commissioner Ken Russell and their families. Both came to AC’s with their parents as young children, and both bring their own young children now.

Vacations? AC has what he calls his “happy place” on a tiny island in the Bahamas. Retirement? “If I can do what I do and go and have a beer every day and keep taking vacations,” says AC, “I can keep going for a long time.”

AC maintains regularly updated Facebook and Instagram pages. Check them out.

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