When you buy an ice cream treat from Amanda and Tyler Jay, you are literally helping to pay their way through college.
The siblings from southeast Brainerd - she's 17 and he's 15 - work for Sweet Memories Ice Cream Sales, their family-owned business started by their dad, Mike Jay, five years ago. The Jays can be found most warm summer days biking around Brainerd or Baxter selling their ice cream treats, which cost anywhere from $1-$3. Their bicycles feature large umbrellas with a cooler on the front.
Both Amanda and Tyler said they've got the best job. They enjoy meeting new people and everyone who wants to buy an ice cream is always in a good mood. They also get good exercise as they bike for hours around the Brainerd neighborhoods.
Tyler Jay, 15, and his sister, Amanda, 17, rode their ice cream bicycles through their southeast Brainerd neighborhood. The siblings work for their family-owned business, Sweet Memories Ice Cream Sales, and sell ice cream throughout Brainerd.
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Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
The siblings earn commission only on their ice cream sales and a large portion of those funds goes into a college savings fund. They receive 25 cents for every $1 worth of ice cream sold, said their dad, Mike Jay.
Mike Jay was in Canada when he spotted a guy selling ice cream from a bicycle. Intrigued, he stopped and started chatting with him. The guy told him that people think he looks a little strange riding a bike and selling ice cream but the part-time job has put all four of his children through college.
The Jays have nine children and Mike Jay immediately thought it would be the perfect family business for them. Now he has five bicycles and estimates the family business sells between five to 10 tons of ice cream each year. A semi-trailer unloads Blue Bunny ice cream treats at their home two to three times a summer.
Most people may recognize the bicycles and the ice cream sellers from the Brainerd Fourth of July, which is their busiest day of the year. They work all day selling ice cream until the fireworks start. They also sell ice cream at other special Brainerd events.
Amanda and Tyler each have a say in what products are bought and stocked on their bicycles. They try to return to the same neighborhoods at the same time each week so people are used to hearing them ringing their bicycle bells. Children - and adults - come running.
"It's amazing how excited the adults get," said Amanda Jay. "Sometime they act like 2 year olds."
The Jays said it doesn't have to be hot outside for people to want to buy ice cream.
"I've had people buying ice cream in the lightning and high winds," said Tyler Jay. "I guess they have to have their ice cream."
Amanda Jay said their mom, Tina, tells the three of them that it feels like they're celebrities. When they go somewhere, everyone seems to remember them from selling ice cream.
"Behind us at church we'll hear, 'It's the ice cream man,'" Amanda said with a smile, referring to her dad. Mike Jay travels to Baxter and Merrifield each week to sell ice cream, too.
People often call Amanda the "ice cream girl."
Their best sellers are the Big Vanilla ice cream sandwiches. While the Jays enjoy ice cream, they keep cool while biking by having two bottles of water with them, one frozen and one just cold, so they stay hydrated along the route.
"We get good gas mileage," said Tyler. "We run on water bottles."
The siblings are pretty competitive and often call each other while they're out selling ice cream to see who has done the best. They each carry cell phones with them in case they run out of ice cream and need another family member to come and restock them.
"Even if I don't beat him and he sold more than me, it's a good day because it means ice cream sales are picking up," Amanda said of her brother.
She said her friends often tell her they're jealous that she has a great job.
"My friends say, 'You have the coolest job,'" said Amanda. "And I say, 'I know.'"
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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