Categorized | Bronx Neighborhoods

Taking Over The Bronx One Scoop At A Time

Turning the corner of Alfredo Thiebaud Way, the sounds of Delicioso Coco Helado fill the street as employees and machines work to bring not only a scoop of the infamous frozen treat to the public but also a sense of community. 

Inside the warehouse-esque complex found in the heart of the Bronx, Sophia Pastora oversees the business from opening to closing, a role she grew up seeing firsthand –  her late father Alfredo Thiebaud ran and founded the business in 1978. 

“I started working for my dad during the summers at the age of 14, he taught us to do everything starting at the bottom,” Pastora said. “I had to prove myself before I could take on the next role,” she said.

“My dad said to run a business you had to know all areas of the business, even how to clean a bathroom.”

The infamous treat is a combination of natural fruit flavors along with some artificial coloring, bringing liveliness to the frozen ice.

Following the passing of her father in 2014, Pastora took the reigns of the business and now operates and leads its day-to-day operations while maintaining the legacy of her father in her new leadership role. 

“My father always said if you want to empower people and see them flourish, give them a job,” Pastora said. “His mission was to provide an opportunity for those that couldn’t find it anywhere else. For example, single moms that needed flexible hours and to be their own boss, people that didn’t know the language, those that were elderly and couldn’t find employment anywhere else and those that couldn’t read or write.”

Thiebaud, a Honduran immigrant, created the business which later branched off giving other immigrants and individuals a chance to be business owners themselves by selling his fruit-flavored frozen ice. 

“Delicioso Coco is one of the unsung heroes of the Bronx and New York City economy,” said Michael Brady, CEO of Third Avenue Business and Improvement District and Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. “It employs a lot of people, particularly during the summer months but even more so it provides stability to the largely immigrant community that services the Bronx as a whole.” 

Although Pastora heads the business in its current operations, the ability to sell product falls on the 15 employees and 400 vendors across nine states who stock their carts each morning before heading to the streets. 

One can find vendors selling the frozen ice throughout all five boroughs although the headquarters remain in the south Bronx. 

According to Brady, the company has deployed well over 2 million scoops of the frozen dessert to the borough with one to three individuals manning one cart throughout the day, giving employees the chance to build a localized economy.  

As the business continues to grow and expand in the eight years following Thiebaud’s passing, Pastora is still processing just how much impact her small family-run business has had on the surrounding community.

“Growing up working alongside my father, I took it for granted,” Pastora said. “ Unfortunately it all came to light the day he passed away. How many phone calls, how many stories, how many lives he touched, how many grateful people, how many success stories, how many dreams accomplished, how many kids they put through college after leaving Delicioso but starting with the opportunity my dad gave them. He empowered so many people to work and do better for themselves.”

The popularity of the treat that sells for $1.50-$2.50 has become a staple in the Bronx and can be found not only throughout the borough on street corners but at community events and other local businesses such as The Bronx Brewery. It partnered with the company alongside other breweries to roll out beer inspired by the Delisioso’s summer flavors as part of the Bronx Culture Series.

“You can’t talk about a Bronx summer without the Delicioso carts being out and about,” Brady said. “It’s just something that is so intrinsic to who we are.” 

The sense of community is a key principle behind the success of Delicioso Coco Helado as Thiebaud encouraged his business as a way of connecting those within the Bronx community, according to Pastora. 

Although Pastora is head of the business and continues to focus on preserving the legacy of her father, maintaining it hasn’t always been easy. Some of the challenges include facing a potential closure when the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hit the city.

“It is very hard to try to fill my father’s shoes, I’m praying one day to get there,” Pastora said. “The goal of our company is to continue the legacy of my father which is very hard. I hope he thinks I’m doing a good job.

“​​We are a staple in the community, a summer memory, a childhood memory, young and old love, we are truly blessed,” Pastora said. “I live to see people the day we open and see how happy they get, how many people from other places call to say how they wish they could have a coquito but are so far away.”

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