Mister Magic: A Sweet Tradition in Riverdale Park

By Christina Armeni

A trail of kids holding ice cream cones and slurping on milkshakes paired with the catchy tunes of Popeye the Sailor Man can only mean one thing for Riverdale Park residents; Mister Magic is just around the corner.

“Now watch very carefully,” Mister Magic said to a cluster of eager kids before he made a penny disappear. They giggled with excitement and confusion.

He can also make sprinkles appear on ice cream cones, create a bunny out of sugar and grow a coin three times its size. 

“I’m out there to sell ice cream, do a few tricks and have fun,” said Mister Magic, who has been selling ice cream in Riverdale Park from his antique truck for 28 years. 

Underneath the Coca-Cola-red Mister Magic shirt and matching hat is Doug Jarman, a 62-year-old native Marylander who has a passion for his community, his customers and his ice cream of course. 

“I’m just trying to keep the memories going for the kids nowadays,” Jarman said. Growing up Jarman would buy from the same 1960 Boyertown ice cream truck that he now owns. Back then the truck was one of many Mister Softee trucks. 

  “I used to chase this exact truck when I was a kid,” Jarman said. Around the age of 12 he told the owner of the truck that he wanted to buy it someday. The owner responded with “ya right,” Jarman said.

At 33 years old, Jarman bought the truck impulsively after he happened upon an advertisement for it. At the time, he was plastering and hanging drywall in homes for a living. 

 “You don’t see ice cream trucks like this anymore, ” Jarman said. With two giant vanilla cones that light up on the front of the bright red and white truck, Mister Magic is hard to miss. 

Students and parents outside of Riverdale Park Elementary School can see Mister Magic’s truck parked outside the school every day at 2:30. 

One Riverdale Park parent brought her two kids to Mister Magic’s truck for an end of the week treat. “They want ice cream every day,” Alicia Herrera said. She lets her son and daughter get a sugar cone whenever she carries money, according to Herrera.

Jarman has done his best to keep the prices of his products low. “I just try to be reasonable to people,” Jarman said. 

His most popular items are chocolate and vanilla cones. He also sells milkshakes, banana boats, popsicles and more. His special strawberry sundae with homemade sauce is what keeps customers coming back for more, Jarman said. 

“My customers are always asking me, ‘How do you make the strawberry sauce?’’ But a magician never reveals his secrets, Jarman said. 

Jarman started doing magic when he was just six-years-old and has performed in magic shows ever since.

“You can break the ice with anyone with magic,” Jarman said. His love of magic is where the inspiration for the name of his truck came from.

His daughter Kayla Jarman said that he does magic all the time, even in restaurants or at family gatherings. “He was always doing tricks for random people sitting down at tables next to us,” Kayla said. 

Jarman and his wife Lori Jarman have three daughters and three granddaughters.  

“He was known as the cool dad growing up cause everyone would look forward to his ice cream,” Kayla Jarman said. Jarman would bring the truck to his kids’ school during events and give a portion of the profit back to the school.

Kayla Jarman, 32, works with disabled individuals at the Maryland Disability Determination Services. She was in kindergarten when her dad first bought the truck. “It was definitely an unlimited amount of sprinkles and whipped cream. There was always treats ready to roll.”

Kayla Jarman and her siblings would clean the ice cream truck every day to earn their allowance. 

Now that all of his kids are grown up, Lori Jarman helps him clean the truck. Lori, who works as an Ethics Specialist at the U.S. Department of the Interior, also helps manage the finances of the truck. 

“Some people could go out there and sell an ice cube to an Eskimo and I think he’s one of them,” Lori Jarman, 60, said of her husband. Jarman and Lori started dating when they were at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville. They got married on Valentine’s Day and have been married for 38 years. 

Ice cream is a normal part of the Jarman family’s day-to-day lives and items depicting the sweet treat have slowly been sprinkled throughout their home over the years, according to Kayla Jarman. A cup-shaped like an ice cream cone holds the pens next to the home phone. Lori Jarman can often be found wearing her favorite ice cream earrings. Even their granddaughters have each been given stuffed ice cream cones to play with.  

“I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like ice cream,” Jarman said 

In the winter, people may not be buying ice cream but that doesn’t mean Jarman gets to take a retirement every chilly season. “When you’re not working, you’re not at the beach. You’re either going to get supplies or you’re doing repairs on the truck,” Jarman said.

This winter he plans on taking all of the wheels on the truck off, fixing up the transmission and working on the air-conditioning unit. 

“You can’t go through this truck in a matter of a week or two, it takes a couple months,” Jarman said. It will take him all winter to finish his repairs and he will start selling again in March.

“The truck brings him such great pride,” Lori Jarman said. 

Jarman considers himself a perfectionist when it comes to his profession. “I like to have a pristine truck,” he said. Just like the apron he wears, his truck is spotless. When the paint gets chipped or begins to fade, he fixes it, Jarman said. 

The inside of his truck is just as clean. “This truck is set-up for speed,” Jarman said. Each topping and item has a place and is within reach of where he stands at the serving window. 

“When I got a long line, it’s boom, boom. One right after the other.”

To prove his cleanliness and organization, Jarman gets certified every year by the Prince George’s County Health Department in addition to having a business license and a liability policy.

“I take a lot of pride in my customers and I protect my customers,” Jarman said. “It’s all about how you treat people.”

According to Jarman, it is because of the kind and loyal customers that he has sold in the Riverdale Park area for so long. “The residents look after one another,” Jarman said. 

Within the next few years Jarman plans on retiring but won’t part ways with the truck. “This is my childhood. This is how it was when I was a kid,” Jarman said. He plans on keeping the truck to use for private birthday parties and events residents can hire him to do.

“It’d be a little devastating, to be honest,” Kayla Jarman said of her dad’s future retirement. “It’ll be a sad day in Riverdale, that’s for sure,” she said.

Jarman’s season is coming to a close as temperatures are dropping. Ice cream sundaes and frozen treats will soon be replaced by snow and ice for Riverdale Park residents. 

“Everyone knows I’m the ice cream man,” Jarman said. “They don’t know my name, they just know me as Mister Magic.”

 

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Dairy’s Facebook page.

Christina Armeni is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at christinavarmeni@gmail.com.

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