Young brothers find big dreams in ice cream
Story and photos by Robert Crawford
With their ice cream truck, and some help from their parents and the community, a pair of Pike County siblings are on a clear path — not a rocky road — to success.
Tyler Whatley, 14, and younger brother Ethan Whatley, 8, are the owners and operators of 2 Brothers Frozen Treats, an ice cream truck business. Since 2019, the boys have traveled all over Pike County and surrounding counties selling about 60 different flavors of frozen treats and bringing smiles to young and old alike. Upon request, they attend and host different parties, such as birthdays, family gatherings, baby showers, and even funerals.
The idea of the two brothers operating an ice cream truck came from the boys’ entrepreneur father, Byron Whatley, owner of Byron’s Upholstery Paint and Body.
According to Ethan’s mother and Tyler’s stepmother, Tanesha Whatley, “One day on a trip to Atlanta, we made a stop in Auburn, purchased ice cream from a truck, and it sparked the idea.” From there, Byron acquired and fixed a truck, and Tanesha handled the business’s scheduling, marketing, and logistics; she’s also the secondary driver of the truck. Maurice Baldwin, the primary driver, runs it when the boys are at school.
It took about two months of continuous repair work on the truck and drafting business plans to start the business officially. Ethan and Tyler were especially effective at designing the aesthetics of the ice cream truck. “We added their faces to the final design of the truck as a surprise to the boys, and they were so happy about it,” says Tanesha.
The Whatleys made sure that the boys voluntarily wanted to become part of the business. “We thought it can be great to help the boys understand the benefits of hard work, punctuality, cooperation, entrepreneurship, and building connections,” says Tanesha. But, more notably, it created the space and opportunity for the boys to spend time together and learn professional and business skills.
Tyler and Ethan, thrilled by the idea of owning and operating an ice cream truck business, started immediately learning, Tanesha says, by hands-on training and by trial and error. “At first, it was easy,” Ethan says. But Tyler says they didn’t realize the amount of work it would take to handle the money and customers.
In the beginning, Byron and Tanesha or a family member would drive the truck for them, and Tyler and Ethan would alternate between different tasks. Initially, “I would handle the money, and Ethan would help the customer, and we would switch,” Tyler says. But Tanesha says they eventually learned to handle other tasks, including taking inventory of the products and pricing of events.
Tyler and Ethan wanted to make their business affordable for kids. At the business’s start, the boys would experiment by buying cheaper alternatives to popular flavors. “The price would be lower, but the taste was bad, so we decided to get the better tasting ice cream to satisfy the customers,” Tyler says.
Even though the creation of the ice cream truck came from Byron, the boys cherish the business and are proud of the joy and optimism they bring to the community. Tyler and Ethan proudly say that their favorite part of operating an ice cream truck is “making kids smile and meeting different people.”
The boys mainly run the truck after school, on weekends and at special parties and events if they’re not already busy with homework or after-school activities. Ethan says, “We are lucky to own a business that we can learn from and have fun at the same time.”
It is not unusual to find the boys publicly speaking at a local event in the Pike County area or accepting accolades from prominent figures in the community. From appearing on WSFA’s County Road 12 segment to receiving the 2021 Pike County Top Minority Business Enterprise award, people recognize and appreciate the brothers’ work ethic.
On any day, you can see the boys taking care of a group of youngsters hungry for a frozen treat. Ethan entertains the customers, and Tyler handles the money and keeps an eye on the stock running a seamless operation. The Original Bomb Pop is one of their top sellers, but the Cookies n’ Cream Bar – Ethan’s favorite – comes in a close second.
Ethan says, “I prefer working at the window because I like talking to people and getting them to try new flavors.” Tyler says, “I love doing everything, and if I could drive, I would do that too.”
Apart from selling ice cream and hosting parties, the brothers attend school, church and actively participate in extracurricular activities. Tyler plays a variety of sports at Goshen High School; he is fond of baseball and aspires to become a Major League Baseball player and a welder and continue to run 2 Brothers Frozen Treats.
Ethan attends Troy Elementary and plans to expand his entrepreneurial endeavors, and his dream is to become a computer science engineer. After Ethan accomplishes his personal goals, he will continue to work on the ice cream truck along with Tyler.
A short-term goal of 2 Brothers Frozen treats is to become more prominent in Pike County and expand its influence to other parts of Alabama. As far as long-term goals are concerned, Tanesha foresees the boys operating the ice cream truck entirely on their own, buying a warehouse and a high-top van and ultimately expanding the business into other states.
To access 2 Brothers Frozen Treats’ menu, neighborhood routes, contact information, or book them for an event, find them on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter @2brothersfrozentreats.