Delicioso Coco Helado (sorbet style ice cream) is now one of the largest employers in the neighborhood with more than 30 seasonal employees producing the icy treat.
Alfredo Thiebaud also supplies over 200 independent vendors who are ubiquitous on street corners around the New York City during the summer.
Delicioso vendors begin arriving at the factory around nine in the morning to pick up their merchandise for the day. The vendors, mostly from Latin America, line up quietly as they receive their supply of the frozen fruit purée in tubs. In the evening, vendors return with any unsold product to store in the Delicioso’s warehouse until the next morning.
Vendors are responsible for their individual permits and are free to go wherever they want in the city to sell the product. Thiebaud will not supply a vendor who does not have a permit.
The politics of permits can be a tough business in New York, as Thiebaud knows. In the early 1990s, Thiebaud briefly had his own permit suspended by the city for illegally supplying vendors with permits instead of having to get them through City Hall. Though he was never accused of selling the permits, he acknowledged that he did give them to vendors who sold his products. “I used to give it to the vendor to sell the products,” he said. “I gave them permits to create jobs. I never took advantage and sold the permits.”
Many of the vendors are Latin Americans who come year after year to New York to work for the summer and then return home for the winter. When his vendors leave for the season, Thiebaud continues to work in his factory, fixing the carts and doing yearly maintenance.