'Miss Softee' Chrissy Michaels Puts a Sexy Spin on an Old Favorite
By Kiratiana Freelon on August 17, 2010 7:02am |
By Jill Colvin
MIDTOWN — Mister Softee never looked so good.
Chrissy Michaels, the Mister Softee ice cream lady better known as "Miss Softee," mostly skips the aprons in favor of eye-catching frocks like a low-cut, ankle-length black dress — and her customers are lining up for more.
"Chrissy's awesome," said Dylan Amalfitano, 28, whose office stands beside Michaels' happy hour spot at the corner of 55th Street and Sixth Avenue. He says he's visited her Mister Softee truck nearly every day for the past three months.
"She is absolutely charming and she bakes a mean cookie," Amalfitano said as he finished up a peanut butter cup sundae — one of the Brooklyn chef's daily creations.
Michaels’ girly attire and custom-baked treats that go above and beyond the typical Mr. Softee menu have attracted a rabid following among Midtown office workers. Her regular posts on her Twitter account Miss_Softee have earned her close to 900 followers, making her one of the city's best-known street vendors.
"It's a combined package," Amalfitano said. "Pretty lady: 60 percent, specials: 40 percent."
Michaels took an unexpected path into food vending, which began when she moved to New York from South Florida six years ago after graduating from college to work at a digital advertising agency.
When the economy crashed and she was laid off, Michaels stumbled onto a Craigslist ad looking for a person to staff an ice cream truck. She thought the job would last the summer and decided, "Why not?" Two years later, she's hooked.
"Everyone is happy to see you all day long," she said. "It’s a lot of fun."
But there are challenges to being one of the few female street vendors, she said. She knows of only two other female ice cream vendors, and one of those women's licenses recently expired.
"It’s highly male-dominated,' Michaels said between orders. "There are definitely disadvantages to being a woman."
Among the disadvantages include disputes with male vendors who Michaels believes would have left her alone had she been a guy. There's also the bathroom issue. Unlike male vendors, she said she can't come up with alternatives to finding an actual bathroom.
But Michaels has also been able to put her digital marketing skills to use, between her Twitter account to let her fans know where to find her, and building a brand as the nice ice cream lady with a warm smile, hearty laugh and the inexhaustible enthusiasm of a kindergarten teacher.
"I go for the sweet ice cream lady," she said of her image. "I try to think of myself as the sweet 40s housewife."
And the act seems to be working.
Michaels said she is especially popular with the staff at the Red Lobster in Times Square.
"They go crazy," she said, saying the restaurant chef calls ahead to make sure she's on her way and then pre-orders ice cream for his staff.
Queens resident Jada McCormick, 25, who frequently stops by to grab a cone when she comes to meet up with her boyfriend after work, said that she bypasses the ice cream altogether if Michaels isn't on duty.
"Everybody knows her," she said, before digging in. "Oh, It’s so good!"