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Ice Cream Bus Pays Sweet Tribute To Child
DIXIE TATE Byrd Newspapers
PUBLICATION: Daily News-Record
DATE: April 13, 2017
STANLEY — People handle the loss of a loved one in many ways. For Stephanie Nauman, it's all about keeping her daughter's memory alive. Nauman, who for a time was proprietor of Mattie's Country Store, a primitives shop on Main Street in Luray, said, "I just want to keep her name out there." So when longtime family friend Greg Foltz — who is now married to Nauman's sister, Susan — started dreaming a couple of years ago of starting a new ice cream business, it seemed fitting to name the new endeavor after the little girl whose life ended abruptly at the age of 5.
"He didn't get to be a part of her life," Nauman said. "To make her a part of his [now] is really special."
Mattie, a kindergartner at Luray Elementary School, died of acute meningitis in 2005. She took ill on a Thursday and by Friday evening — and three hospitals later — was gone. At the time, Mattie was Nauman's third and youngest child and her only daughter. Mattie's older brothers, Dylan and Dustin, have since been joined by brother, Mason, and twin sisters, Saydee and Sophie. As Susan Foltz tells it, she and her husband began searching for a bus after the idea of a food truck look lost its appeal.
A bus, as it turned out, was the perfect vehicle for making the dream a reality. The one they found in south Florida began its life as a mobile library in 1999, the year Mattie was born. Greg Foltz said he knew it was meant to be when he stepped inside and saw the purple shelf in the back of the bus. Purple was Mattie's favorite color. Once the couple decided the bus was the way to go, the arduous task of custom outfitting "from the ground up" began. Wanting to keep transformation of the bus into a stylish dispensary of frozen treats a local effort, he enlisted the services of Josh's Welding & Fabrication and Turner's Body Shop, both in Luray, and Muddy Feet Graphics in Harrisonburg. In Stanley, Doug Carlock selected the generator and designed the installation process to run all the equipment in the bus.
Inside, the bus will feature an array of stainless steel appliances and countertops for the mixing and making of the signature Mattie's Soft Serve flavors of vanilla, chocolate and cinnamon and vanilla-chocolate twist, as well as a flavor of the week, all made from "Wisconsin custard" containing 10 percent butterfat and 1.4 percent egg yolk. Besides homemade waffle cones and bowls, other sweet treats in the lineup include fresh-fruit smoothies, banana splits, snowballs, floats, Italian ice, frozen yogurt, gelato, and a couple of planned surprises sure to delight Luray and Page County high school fans.
"I like being out of the box," Greg Foltz said, "because it's fun and it's a lot of work." The bottom line, he said, is that "we want to make people happy, period. "When he suggested naming the business in honor of Mattie, his wife said, "We went to Stephanie, and Stephanie said, 'Of course.'" "I was in tears the first time I saw the bus," Nauman said. "I was really touched."
When the 33-foot-long purple bus begins rolling to predetermined stops in Stanley and Luray in the coming weeks, people will get a taste of some of the things that Mattie loved most: the color purple, butterflies and banana splits with a cherry on top "with a stem because she sucked it right off the stem," Nauman says.
Mattie's Soft Serve will begin operations at Stanley's Ed Good Memorial Park, where Mattie used to play and chase butterflies, in view of the house where she lived.
A "soft opening" is planned for later this month, with a grand opening sometime in May. Word is, there will be free samples.