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Ice cream sold here, quietly

List of regulations long in Westwood

Some towns, such as Westwood, now have a long list of regulations for ice cream vendors. Some towns, such as Westwood, now have a long list of regulations for ice cream vendors. (Dina Rudick/ Globe Staff/ File 2004)
By Michele Morgan Bolton
Globe Correspondent / June 20, 2010

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Ah, summer, when the high point of languid sunny days is often the chimes heralding the arrival of an ice-cream truck and the frosty goodies inside it.

Except if you live in Dedham, where no ice-cream truck routes are allowed.

Or in Westwood, where selectmen just issued the first ice-cream truck license in 25 years, but attached a list of banned activities so stringent that the vendor may not play any kind of music to lure customers, nor park within 500 feet of a playground, park, or school.

Or travel the town’s busiest streets. Or even the narrow ones, Town Administrator Michael Jaillet said.

Overall, that eliminates Canton, Clabboardtree, Gay, Nahatan, Pond, Oak, High, Washington, Hartford, and Everett streets from the list.

And there must be two people in the truck at all times, according to the rules.

“We’ve had other inquiries before, and people followed through to a point, but they could never make it work under these guidelines,’’ Jaillet said.

Last week, Bussam Alkhatatbih and his daughter, Sirrene Alkhatatbih, of Sam’s Ice Cream of Saugus agreed to all of Westwood’s stipulations, and, after background and CORI checks, are ready to fire up the engine.

“He came before us and said he understood all the requirements and still wanted to do it,’’ Jaillet said.

The company also sells ice cream in Walpole and Norwood.

Mohamad Alkhatatbih, Bussam’s son, said Wednesday that his family had just received the vendor permit that day and planned to hit the road on Thursday. While the specific route was still a mystery, he said he would start out within the town’s restrictions and see where he ended up. Wherever it is, he said, he knows there will be customers ready to enjoy his top-selling snow cones and the perennial favorite, Chips Galore.

Ice-cream trucks are required to have a state license and one from the community they are serving.

Westwood’s decision, however, has not been made lightly following a tragic fatality in the 1980s. At that time, a young boy who was excited about buying an ice cream ran into the road, and in front of the truck, where he was struck and killed.

Since then, officials have either never approved another license application or found an applicant willing to accept the new guidelines in order to expand a route into the affluent suburb south of Boston.

Times have certainly changed when it comes to vending ice cream, said Ron Palagi, whose family business, Palagi Brothers Ice Cream of Pawtucket, has been making and selling ice cream since 1896.

Palagi Brothers also has routes in Norwood and Walpole, among other towns. The company also recently staffed a truck at a music festival in Dedham Square.

After driving an ice-cream truck for 51 years, Ron Palagi said, he proudly represents his family and its business history that began with horses and wagons more than a century ago.

But over time, as now in Westwood, harsher restrictions have taken a toll on the ability to find new routes, he said.

“Yes, it’s definitely harder,’’ Palagi said. “Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes not so good.’’

So why do it at all, he’s asked.

“Are you kidding me?’’ he replied. “I love it. It’s history. My father did this. And his father.’’

Palagi still rises early every morning to make the frosty slushes he will dole out all day, along with hand-scooped ice-cream cones and favorites like the Double Ball Screw Ball.

Except, instead of sounding his music as he crawls through neighborhoods seeking customers as he might have years ago, the Palagi fleet accommodates some towns’ stricter guidelines by making scheduled stops at summer camps, some schools, and even along the Automile in Norwood, where workers at the dealerships are some of his regular customers.

“We’ve been here a long time,’’ he said.

Stopping at schools is not forbidden in Norwood, said health director Sigalle Reiss.

In fact, the most popular summer stop is near the Coakley School by a pool. But, like Westwood, the town insists that each truck have two employees at all times — one to drive and one to watch out for safety.

“You also don’t want one person alone with children,’’ Reiss said.

In Westwood, officials said they have informed the Alkhatatbihs they are willing to give them a chance, but, remembering the loss of life that prompted such consternation, they will also be watching.

Westwood is known for its leafy roads and exclusive neighborhoods. And Jaillet acknowledged that finding customers in his town won’t be as easy as it might be in a more urban area. But, he said, that is up to the Alkhatatbihs.

“You do wonder how they can make any money,’’ Jaillet mused. But given that the one-truck operation already serves several contiguous communities, “maybe they are just adding on a few streets.’’

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at mmbolton1@verizon.net.

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