PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) ─ There’s a tradition in Rhode Island dating back to the 1800s that sends kids running down the street with whatever coins they can find.
They know when they hear that familiar tune echoing through the neighborhood, it can only mean one thing: the ice cream truck is coming.
The Palagis Ice Cream truck made its rounds Thursday afternoon in Pawtucket as temperatures surpassed 90 degrees for the sixth straight day.
Owner Alex Arteaga tells Eyewitness News he was concerned for his business heading into the summer, since most of his sales come from social gatherings, which have been far and few between throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“Without the schools, without the games, we were wondering how this was going to affect us,” he said.
Arteaga said the season began late since they weren’t able to open in April.
“We were closed and about a week into May, then we were able to open up,” he said.
But despite the late start and being short drivers throughout both May and June, Arteaga said it appears that because more people are at home, the neighborhoods are much more busy.
“People were happy to see us, and feeling a sense of life going back, a little bit, to normal,” he said.
Arteaga said while they’re still catching up on sales, they’ve garnered plenty of new customers because of the pandemic.
To keep truck drivers and customers safe, he said they’ve been using soap and bleach to wash down the trucks before they take to the streets and when they return.
He said the trucks’ windows have also been altered. The windows are now much smaller, he said, and include a shield between the customers and driver.
Arteaga said the season usually lasts until the end of September, but he’s unsure if that’s when they’ll finish up this year.
“Today we’re in business,” he said. “Tomorrow and next week? Who knows what will happen, but we’re hoping we can get through this season.”
When it comes to the nationwide coin shortage, Arteaga said it hasn’t affected business in the slightest.
“For the most part, everything is rounded up,” he said. “If it’s $5.50, they just say, ‘Keep the change.'”
Arteaga tells Eyewitness News that next week he hopes to have his ice cream stand, located on Bacon Street, open for business.
Palagi’s Ice Cream was established in 1896 by Peter Palagi. Arteaga bought the company in 1998 and changed the name to Palagi’s Ice Cream 2000, which is separate from Palagi Brothers Ice Cream owned by Bob and Adam Palagi.