WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A Winston-Salem company’s presence at large sporting events across the southeast had been as ubiquitous as the athletes themselves until the COVID-19 pandemic shut all of those events down.
Innovative Concessions Enterprises has provided what they call “fun foods” at events like NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, the U.S. Open and the Kentucky Derby.
With none of those events hosting fans this year the owners of this small business had to take a swing at something different.
Now, instead of the sound of fans cheering their driver, player or team, you’ll hear the sound of the entrepreneurial spirit taking a hard left turn.
“We just started rolling into neighborhoods and had no idea what the reaction would be, but it’s been very well received and we’re actually having people saying, ‘how soon can you come back?’” said Rudy Cook, who owns Innovative Concessions Enterprises with his wife Elly.
After the shutdown, the loss of the events for their business led to a 40-percent drop in revenue. They still have the distribution side of the business supplying Dippin’ Dots to smaller accounts, but the events business is completely shut down.
The Cooks have been providing snacks and goodies at large sporting events across the southeast for 30 years, so to replace the lost income they had to formulate a plan in a hurry.
“You know, none of that is happening. So we had to pivot and find other things to do. And that’s how this ice cream truck concept came about,” Rudy Cook said.
Cue the Dippin’ Dots ice cream truck and excited children up and down neighborhood streets, and even one tree cutting crew taking a break from their job.
“Our theory was that people want this product. It’s a product that they’re used to getting at amusement parks or at special events and they can’t get it. So, if they can’t come to us at these major special events, we’re going to come to them,” Cook said.
When events open back up to spectators, they’ll be there, and they expect business could be great.
“One thing we’ve talked about is when they do start allowing people to go to events, they’re going to go like crazy because they’ve been at home for so long. They’re going to be ready to get out and go somewhere,” Elly Cook said.
But for now it’s plan B.
“If you’re going to survive, you’ve got to figure out a way to offset the losses and do the best you can. This little ice cream truck thing has been very well received,” Rudy Cook said.
You can request the Dippin’ Dots truck to visit your neighborhood by visiting their Facebook page; search “Innovative Concessions Winston-Salem.”