|Founded||1956 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|John Conway, James Conway|
Founding and growth
Mister Softee was founded by William Conway and James Conway (October 30, 1927 – May 28, 2006) in 1956 in Philadelphia and is one of the largest franchisors of soft ice cream in the United States, with about 350 franchisees operating 600 trucks in 15 states. As of 2016[update], the company was headquartered in Runnemede, New Jersey, and was still run by the Conway family, co-owned by cousins Jim Conway Jr. and John Conway.
Mister Softee in China
In 2007, Mister Softee established its first ice cream truck and ice cream shop in mainland China in Suzhou, Jiangsu. Mister Softee China, operated by Alex Conway (grandson of James Conway) and Turner Sparks, planned to begin expanding its core business and franchising throughout China's eastern region.
Mister Softee China has created a menu that combines classic American ice cream products of shakes, floats, and sundaes with new Chinese products such as green tea ice cream, red bean ice cream, kiwi sundaes, and milk tea floats. While its American counterpart operates almost exclusively with trucks, Mister Softee China has kiosks in downtown shopping areas and trucks throughout China's ever expanding suburban neighborhoods and business districts.
The instrumental jingle played by Mister Softee trucks is based on "The Whistler and His Dog" (1960) by Lester Morton "Les" Waas. A copy of the sheet music and all the words can be found on the Mister Softee website. Waas, who created close to 1,000 jingles in his lifetime, died in April 2016.
The Mr. Softee jingle is written in E-flat major with 6/8 time. However, many of the trucks play a version that sounds almost as if it is transposed up a half step, in E major, though still with the 6/8 time. In New York City, the trucks are permitted to only play the jingle while moving, to reduce noise.
Trademark infringement cases
Mister Softee has in recent years defended its trademarks in well-publicized cases. In 2015 Mister Softee won a trademark infringement case in federal court against Dimitrios Tsirkos, a former Mister Softee franchisee in New York who had been operating a competing ice cream vending operation called "Master Softee." The next year, Mister Softee won a case against Dimitrios Konstantakakos, owner of "New York Ice Cream," preventing him from using the iconic Mister Softee jingle. With respect to defending the trademarks, Mister Softee vice president Jim Conway has stated, "For 58 years we’ve spent our time, energy, and money developing brands. We’re one of the most recognized brands. The people who are infringing on our trademark are not only hurting Mr. Softee, but also hurting our mom and pop franchisees. We take these actions to protect them as much to protect our own brand."
In popular culture
- In June 1961, Doug Quattlebaum, an American Piedmont blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, was 're-discovered' playing popular and blues songs through the public address system of his Mister Softee ice cream van. The blues historian, Pete Welding, who became known for discovering talent in unusual places, heard his performances and arranged for him to record an album. Released by Bluesville Records, Softee Man Blues (1963) had a photograph of Quattlebaum in his ice cream uniform on its front cover.
- The cover of the 1976 compilation album Phil Spector's 20 Greatest Hits features a man's face being splattered by an ice cream cone. On his shirt, he is wearing a small button with the image of the Mr. Softee mascot.
- In the Broadway musical In the Heights (2008), the song "Piragua" and its reprise feature a piragua vendor who mentions Mister Softee as a competitor "trying to shut me down".
- The Mister Softee jingle can be briefly heard from a passing ice cream truck in "The Commuter", a 2017 episode of Amazon's Prime Video series Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams.
- In the Grand Theft Auto video game series, the "Mr. Whoopee" ice cream van is a parody of Mister Softee.
- In a scene in Captain America: Civil War, Tony Stark wears a Mister Softee t-shirt.
- An episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete features "Mr. Tastee", a mysterious driver of an ice cream truck who wears a mascot head clearly modeled after Mister Softee. He never removes his mascot costume head and is very reluctant to let his customers get close to him.
- In a 2011 episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm titled "Mister Softee," Larry David is distracted on several occasions by the music from a nearby Mister Softee truck, which reminds him of an unpleasant childhood memory.
- Fox, Margalit (2006-05-31). "James Conway Sr., 78, a Founder of Mister Softee, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-05-31.
- Ulrich, Lawrence (2016-04-04). "Behind the Scenes at Mr. Softee's Ice Cream Truck Garage". The Drive. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- "mistersofteechina.com". mistersofteechina.com. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
- "Les Waas". Retrieved 2007-10-11.
- "Softee Funzone". Mister Softee. mistersoftee.com. Retrieved 2017-07-21.
- Perry, Richard. "Les Waas, Mister Softee’s Songwriter, Dies at 94". The New York Times. April 27, 2016.
- Yang, Tia S. "Les Waas, legend in advertising, known for jingles". Philadelphia Inquirer. April 23, 2016.
- Hu, Winnie (December 14, 2005). "That Jingle Of Mr. Softee's? It's the Sound Of Compromise". The New York Times.
The Bloomberg administration will allow the ice cream trucks to continue playing the sprightly ditty while trolling for young customers. But under a compromise with the City Council, the jingle must be halted when the trucks are not moving.
- "Master Softee Barred From Using Mister Softee Trademarks". Portfolio Media Inc. 2015-11-24. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
- "Mister Softee Wins Soft Serve Battle". Vox Media Inc. 2016-06-28. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
- "Ice Cream Wars: Mister Softee Dishes Out Injunction Against Knock-off Trucks". NBCUniversal Media, Inc.Inc. 2014-06-11. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
- "Doug Quattlebaum | Biography & History". AllMusic. 1927-01-22. Retrieved 2017-01-25.
- "Doug Quattlebaum | Big Road Blues". Sundayblues.org. Retrieved 2017-01-25.
- "Herb Gart - Incite Site". Therainbow.com. Retrieved 2014-06-27.
- Hudes, Quiara Alegría; Miranda, Lin-Manuel (2013). In the Heights: The Complete Book and Lyrics of the Broadway Musical. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. ISBN 978-1-4768-7464-7.
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