Joe Marazzo '80: The Ice Cream Man Cometh
It’s a sweet treat, but for Joe Marazzo ’80 it’s so much more and has been since he was a child. Indeed, ice cream not only represents a family legacy for the NJIT civil engineering alum, but also the means by which he paid his way through college.
Marazzo owns and operates Delicious Ice Cream, a company established in 1955 by his father, Al, who sold ice cream seven days a week from April to October to supplement his income as a pipe-boom and heavy-truck operator with the City of New York’s Water Department. He was the ice cream man in Marazzo’s Staten Island neighborhood and drove a 1950 Chevy ice cream truck outfitted with a refrigeration unit.
Marazzo remembers drifting off to sleep from the hum of that unit’s compressor in the garage below his bedroom, and spending quality time with his dad while he stocked and sold ice cream. “When I was 3 years old, he used to put me on the truck and I’d ride around with him. He’d put a little wood board in [along the side] so I wouldn’t fall out, because the truck had no doors,” he recalled with a laugh.
“I was the most popular kid around,” he said about being related to the ice cream man.
“The thing that was tough as a kid, though, was my father worked a lot,” Marazzo added wistfully, noting how he would bond with his dad in the evenings after the route was done. “My mom would keep me up until he got home, around 9 p.m., and I’d sit with him while he worked getting the truck set for the next day, putting his inventory in. I’d be sitting behind the wheel, eating an ice cream, and make believe I was driving the truck.”
Work and Study
Marazzo’s childhood fantasy became a reality when, at age 17 as a senior at Moore Catholic High School, he took over the business, following in the footsteps of his father and his older brother, John. His father had been planning to retire the truck, but Marazzo convinced him otherwise and logged countless hours selling ice cream in the evenings and on weekends. The summer between high school and NJIT, he stepped up sales working up to 10 hours daily, and continued the route throughout his college years. He managed to pay 100 percent of his college bills selling ice cream.
“That was pretty much my life,” said Marazzo. “The key was to get my tuition paid by the end of May… Whatever I made in June, July and August was my spending money, because I didn’t work in the winter.”
He came to NJIT based on both its reputation as “being a really good engineering school” and its location, just 20 minutes from his home and easily commutable. His dad had developed congestive heart failure and was given a poor prognosis, so Marazzo wanted to attend a nearby school. He graduated from NJIT in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science degree and started out as a management trainee with the Brooklyn Union Gas Company, while also selling ice cream part time. His father, who died one year later, was able to see him launch his career.
A Family Affair
In 1983, Marazzo decided to hang up his ice cream man’s hat. His plate had become too full, what with working at the gas company, pursuing an MBA at night at St. John’s University, and building a house in the Poconos.
But when he turned 50, the business began making its way back into his life. He had been restoring the 1950 Chevy ice cream truck with the intention of displaying it at car shows. When it was at the shop, however, “people were coming in and wanting to book it for events and parties,” prompting Marazzo to relaunch Delicious Ice Cream. He turned to his older son, Chris, then 17, and showed him the ropes. His daughter, Alyssa, and younger son, Tommy, came on board as well.
They forewent the route, instead selling ice cream at corporate and local gatherings and family celebrations throughout Northern and Central New Jersey. They also adopted a nostalgic bent, wearing vintage uniforms and playing songs from the 1950s and 1960s.
“It just took off and by the next year I needed a second truck,” said Marazzo. And even a third one: After augmenting the fleet with a 1954 strawberry and white Chevy in 2010, they built a 1955 turquoise and white Chevy in 2012. They later sold the 1954 Chevy and built a 1948 orange and white Chevy.
Return to His Roots
Since then, Marazzo has retired the original Chevy and maintains it as a family heirloom, occasionally renting it out for photo and film shoots. Both he, in a cameo as an ice cream man, and the truck appear in the first five minutes of Steven Spielberg’s Cold War drama, “Bridge of Spies.”
He also has resumed playing a primary role in the daily details of Delicious Ice Cream, after serving as a vice president at New Jersey Resources in Wall Township and before that as president and COO of KeySpan Home Energy Services, a subsidiary of KeySpan Energy. Marazzo runs the business with his wife, Jennifer, with his children assisting from time to time.
“I could have grown this business and hired a bunch of people, took on more work, but at 57 I just didn’t want to do that. I always just wanted to keep it a family business,” he said. “I have fun with it. Basically, right now it’s just me and my wife and we have a young man who helps out in the summertime.”
So, with a variety of flavors ever available to Marazzo, what’s his favorite? “Oreo sandwich and toasted almond,” he declared, adding, “I never get tired of ice cream!”
July Is National Ice Cream Month. Did You Know…
- The first ice cream parlor in America opened its doors in New York in 1776.
- The ice cream sundae was conceived in the 1880s.
- Vanilla ice cream reigns supreme.
- The U.S. is second, after New Zealand, in ice cream consumption.
- California produces the most ice cream in America.