Are you among the legion of Portlanders complaining that this is the summer that wasn't? Though not a total bust, it has been the chilliest, rainiest summer in recent memory. But don't despair yet—there's still sun to be had in September, and cute-as-a-button Kara Steffek will be roaming the streets in her ice cream truck well into October. Kara's been in the biz since May, and has rarely had a day off. She's got her hands in almost every aspect of the Portland Ice Cream Company, placing orders and doing manual labor at the warehouse in addition to pushing sweets on Portland's mean streets. And while she's got some background in dairy products (she once took an unforgettable milk bath on Berbati's stage), it was really her fabulous connections that scored her primo position: Kara's been close friends with Mick Shillingford, Portland Ice Cream Company's owner, for over 15 years.
Have you always dreamed of having a career in ice cream?
No, I just kind of lucked into it. I'm still pinching myself.
What is the top seller of the summer?
Fruitiki bars are really popular. Coconut is the crowd favorite, and mine, too.Are there different hot sellers in different markets? Do folks in Gresham have different tastes than downtowners?
Totally. And culturally it's different too. Fruitiki makes bars that have chili in them that are really popular with Hispanic people: mango with chili, tamarind with chili. They're spicy, but even the little kids love them.
What's your favorite part of the job?
It's really cool when I drive up and kids start jumping around and doing the ice cream dance. People are always happy to see you. There's no negativity. Which is why Mick founded the Ice Cream Company in the first place—people love ice cream! Even grownups have an affinity for it. When they hear the truck they get excited.
How does the jingle work?
I have a music box and there's a bunch of different songs on it. "Music Box Dancer" is my signature.
Where can we usually find you?
I do a lot of events—at PIR, the Warped Tour. I'm going to a rodeo in Ellensburg for five days. Most afternoons I drive through North Portland, up Killingsworth, down 82nd, and then I drive Stark all the way out to Rockwood. I'm also at Pioneer Square on Tuesdays and Thursdays for Noon Tunes and for special events like Sand in the City.