Following a scare with their son’s peanut allergy, Epic Cones owner Danielle Turuba and her husband Adam decided they were going to do something that makes a difference.
The pair opened up a nut-free ice-cream truck with their belief that Thunder Bay needs such a service.
For the third year in a row, Epic Cones has been recognized in the Community Votes Thunder Bay platform and has been voted a three-time platinum award winner for best dessert, best ice cream and best food truck this year. The popular ice-cream truck has also won The Chronicle-Journal Reader’s Choice Award for the fifth year in a row for best ice cream.
Danielle says there are not many food service options that are peanut free or nut free.
“We wanted to do something that we could completely pour all of our energy into,” she said. “We wanted to create a business where we could be ourselves, connect with other people and give back. We wanted something that was completely different.”
She pointed out that in order to ensure that her product was 100-per cent nut free, she bakes all her ice-cream toppings herself.
“We have our top seller which is apple crumble,” Danielle said.
“This year, I’ve used about 1,000 pounds of apples and we still have two months left this year. I bake the sponge cakes, the brownies and the toffee beds to guarantee that we are 100-per cent nut free.”
She is in her sixth summer with the food truck and says during the colder months she heads into her kitchen to focus on the catering side of the business.
“We close the food truck usually at the end of September and then I take the winter off to do Christmas baking. Last year I did 190 Christmas trays,” Danielle said. “We do a lot for the schools, for funerals and I also do chocolate-covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day.”
She becomes so busy with her baking that her social media post fills to more than 200 orders within an hour of the posting, causing her to shut it down.
“We have a great customer base,” Danielle said. “There are quite a few people in Thunder Bay that deal with peanut allergies, so they come to us for everything. I had no idea until my son had this allergy.”
Operating a food truck, catering and baking all her own goods adds up in costs quickly, which has become a challenge with the constantly rising food and venue costs.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t been eligible for any funding,” Danielle said.
“We’ve done this all on our own and even through COVID, the government wouldn’t help us out with anything, being a small business. The rising fees that events are charging are getting to be astronomical pricing. You’ll notice now food trucks are more and more stepping out of city events because they are being charged $750 for one day. This year, for the first time, we are not doing the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition because they are charging us $3,000. That’s one month’s rent that I’ll be paying in five days while praying it doesn’t rain.”
Danielle noted that many food trucks are parking at different private business lots such as Oriental Gardens and Apple Self Storage in the Northwood Plaza.
She said rising food costs have “absolutely impacted” them.
“Because I don’t have staff and it’s my husband and I, we can actually keep our feet a little more grounded,” Danielle said. “We want to help families and we’ll never leave a kid walking away without a cone. It’s really hard for everybody right now. . . and we’re not going to price gouge anybody.”
Danielle says otherwise it’s been great and they haven’t had to face too many other challenges.
“Our customers keep coming back, supporting us, encouraging us and offering help when we need it and that’s been great for us,” she said. “We are very fortunate. Our customers have been through this whole journey with us.
On the horizon, she says they are looking at expansion and are even considering a brick-and-mortar store.
“It depends,” Danielle said. “We will be expanding our menu for more people with food requirements. Right now we offer gluten-free and dairy-free options. But otherwise, we really enjoy doing the whole food truck part of it.”
She says she and her husband “are the face” of the Epic Cones food truck and her daughter and niece volunteer working with them.
“We don’t have staff and I don’t think I’ll ever change that because I love being with our customers.”

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 02, 2023 at 10:00

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario
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