clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

As Summer Begins, NYC’s Soft-Serve Turf War Reignites

New, 1 comment

Mister Softee and New York Ice Cream are back at it

Mister Softee
Mister Softee
Nick Solares

Summer is just barely unofficially back and so is the now-infamous soft serve brawl between longtime giant Mister Softee and young disruptor New York Ice Cream. The fight between the two ice cream trucks is now several years deep — check below for a full timeline of the drama — and returns this year with theatrics like private investigators and violent intimidation tactics.

Mister Softee has hired private investigators to tail New York Ice Cream and make sure they don’t use the brand’s signature jingle or swirl-shaped mascot. NYIC has reportedly responded with threats backed by metal pipes, the chief investigator of North American Investigations — the company hired by Mister Softee — tells the Post.

This is just the latest chapter in the saga that started in 2013 when New York Ice Cream opened as Master Softee, an obvious rip-off of the Mister Softee name. Here’s how the feud has evolved:

2013: Master Softee is born

A man holds a cup of chocolate soft serve in a Mister Softee cup with a spoon in it.
Mister Softee
Nick Solares/Eater NY

After 61 years of Mister Softee as America’s reigning soft serve provider, former driver Dimitrios Konstantakakos formed rival Master Softee with his fleet of 12 trucks. Upset over high franchising fees — a 2011 franchise agreement shows a flat initial fee on top of a cut from every cone sold — Tsirkos intentionally created Master Softee to compete with Mister.

2014: Master Softee is banned

Just one short year later, Mister Softee sued the upstart — of course — for trademark infringement, since Master Softee was using the same blue and white color scheme, cursive lettering, bow tie-clad ice cream cone mascot, and distinctive jingle.

A judge quickly sided with Mister Softee, banning Master Softee from the streets of New York.

2015: Master Softee is reborn as New York Ice Cream

But Master Softee wasn’t down and out for long. The creative company returned as New York Ice Cream, again prompting the litigious Mister Softee to sue for use of its distinctive jingle.

2016: New York Ice Cream forced to drop jingle and mascot

Nick Solares

With the lawsuit still underway, reports started to leak of the intimidation tactics used by New York Ice Cream against Mister Softee. A New York Times story told of physical fights and bullying, with one Mister Softee operator saying, “If one of my drivers goes to Midtown, they’ll [New York Ice Cream] bring their trucks in and surround them — a bunch of guys . . . They’ll start banging on the windows.”

According to one driver, Mister Softee trucks stopped venturing to Midtown in fear of NYIC and started carrying baseball bats just in case. All the press even caused Stephen Colbert to weigh in on the drama.

Later that summer, a judge ruled in favor of Mister Softee once again, decreeing that the jingle was theirs alone to use. Konstantakakos was also forced to pay Mister Softee’s more than $10,000 in legal fees and NYIC was banned from certain areas of Midtown.

2017: Private investigators and intimidation tactics rule the streets

Now, as peak soft serve season heads into full swing, New York Ice Cream is not backing down. The order banning NYIC from certain areas of Midtown reportedly expired in late 2016, so the NYIC trucks are coming out in full force in the area. “We own Midtown,” one NYIC truck driver told the Post, while a Mister Softee private investigator said Mister Softee vendors are still “afraid” to head to the busy neighborhood.

While New York Ice Cream is certainly making gains — with 46 street vendor licenses this year, up from 16 in 2014 — Mister Softee still dominates the field, with 126 of the 228 permits issued in 2017, the Post reports.