Although he was coping with a cancer diagnosis in 2010, Needham resident Dan Schorr decided to push forward with his plan to create a sweet new ice cream business and bring joy to others.
The long-time food industry professional’s frozen dessert, called Vice Cream, will be featured at next week’s Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl from June 6-8 at City Hall Plaza.
While thousands flock to this annual fundraiser, Schorr has special reason to be involved, as he was a patient at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Having been cleared of cancer in 2016, he now does all he can to give back while helping everyone enjoy each day a little more with his sweet frozen treats.
Though Schorr did not grow up in the ice cream business, he remembered many late nights spent listening to his parents sneaking to the kitchen to enjoy a bowl.
“I would hear my mom’s feet pitter patter … down to the kitchen,” Schorr recalled. “It was ice cream time!”
With these fond childhood memories, when it came time for Schorr to get a job to pay for school, he returned to the sweet treat as an ice cream truck operator.
“We [got] to wake up [at] 11 a.m., … drive around to concerts, ball games, the beach … [and] birthday parties,” he recalled. “I [could] make people smile by selling ice cream!”
The one thing that Schorr eschewed was the cloying music that annoyed so many of his colleagues.
“We actually had a radio in the truck that blasted Def Leppard’s ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me,’” he recalls. “We [also] had a megaphone system to announce we were in the neighborhood, but we never had that ice cream music because I thought it would haunt me the rest of my life.”
After school, Schorr stayed in the food industry, helping to launch a number of popular food brands.
“I captained Pepsi’s Energy drink portfolio,” he recalls, “with Mountain Dew AMP, Starbucks Doubleshot, and SoBe Adrenaline Rush.”
Unfortunately, a great deal of Schorr’s own energy was sapped when he was diagnosed with cancer. However, Schorr persevered and used this setback as a reason to work even harder to help himself and others.
“When I was diagnosed, my first reaction was that I didn’t want to be the boy in the bubble,” he says. “I wanted to live life and not be told I couldn’t leave the house due to infection.”
As he had already begun working on a new ice cream brand of his own, the triathlete poured all of his energy into the project, both as a means of distracting and supporting himself.
“I was going to continue to build the brand,” he said, “but now with new meaning.”
As grateful as Schorr is to have had a project to keep him focused, he is more grateful to his family and friends for their love and support during his treatments. Now that he has been cancer-free for almost a year, he is even more dedicated to supporting others. That is why he will donate part of the proceeds from Vice Cream sales at the Scooper Bowl to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
While Schorr’s story is memorable enough, many fans of Vice Cream say they love his clever names almost as much as they love the flavors themselves.
“Most of their names were developed in the first few weeks of brainstorming,” Schorr recalls, noting that many names (such as Toffee Wife, Higher Grounds, and Afternoon Delight) came before the flavors.
“The recipes were another thing. We didn’t realize how hard it was to make our product at scale,” due to the amount of mix-ins included.
“We think that if our brand’s funny attitude and marketing … plus our great product can bring a smile to a patient or a caregiver for 5 minutes, then this journey I am on is worth it,” Schorr smiled.
“We have become a voice for the cancer community,” Schorr said, noting that he receives many letters each month from fellow patients and survivors. “They find my story inspirational, [but] the irony is I find theirs key to me keeping perspective. They inspire me!”