Off-Campus Explorations: Frozen Hoagies

A hungry patron digs into his frozen hoagie on Nov. 16. (Scott Fitchen / The Tufts Daily)

Frozen Hoagies, located in Somerville’s Powder House Square, primarily serves ice cream, cookies and ice cream sandwiched between two cookies. Their desserts draw from a comprehensive and ever-changing list of ice cream and cookie flavors.

The business venture began on July 4, 2011 as a food truck, according to Frozen Hoagies’ website. Between April 1 to Nov. 1, the company pays homage to its roots, selling treats from its three trucks that park at various locations in the Boston area, according to John Costantino, the store’s general manager.

The brick-and-mortar location in Somerville, which is open year round, was established in November 2014, Costantino said.

Mary McPartland, the founder and owner of Frozen Hoagies, said that Frozen Hoagies began with just one truck, specifically a vintage ice cream truck dating back to 1976 that still plays its original music. 

“I bought that one small ice cream truck off eBay, and got it retrofitted and licensed for Boston, and I started… with just my nephews working, driving the truck and me making cookies,” McPartland said.

Initially, McPartland worked a full-time job at Verizon while her nephews drove the truck.

“She would work days and bake everything at night,” Costantino said.

Eventually, McPartland quit her day job, prompted by her lifelong passion for baking.

“I got tired of the corporate world and wanted to start my own business,” she said. “I like to bake, and I like ice cream.”

She added that she was intrigued by the concept of food trucks, which was more novel at the time.

According to McPartland, the Fourth of July, the business’ anniversary, is one of its busiest days of the year. Every year, on July 3 and 4, the truck parks on the Charles River Esplanade.

During that time, the store is closed and between 10 to 15 employees work on the truck, compared to a mere two-three employees for a typical food truck event, according to Costantino. Over the course of the two-day period, he said that Frozen Hoagies typically sells between 10,000 and 14,000 cookies and 300 gallons of ice cream. 

Though demand for its ice cream spikes during these two days, Frozen Hoagies is busy all year round. 

“Ice cream is not seasonal in New England,” Costantino said.

The Frozen Hoagies store usually stocks 16-18 ice cream flavors and 12 cookie flavors at a time, according to McPartland. They prefer to maintain a set of four cookie varieties in stock consistently: chocolate chip, fudge brownie, snickerdoodle and a gluten-free option, usually coconut.

Aside from these staples, flavors change by the season and based on current employees’ whims, Costantino said. In the winter, he makes pumpkin, gingerbread and molasses cookies.

Costantino’s personal favorite hoagie is the decadent Mexican Chocolate Chip ice cream, which consists of chocolate ice cream with cinnamon, nutmeg and dark chocolate chips, sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies.

“Nothing beats just a fresh chocolate chip cookie,” he said.

Costantino said the cookies are baked in the store. They have a shelf life of two days, and leftovers are donated to a food pantry. The ice cream comes from Rancatore’s, a small-batch ice cream company with locations in Lexington, Newtonville and Belmont.

“We put our order in on Monday, they make our ice cream on Tuesday, we get it on Thursday and then start selling it right on Thursday to everybody,” Costantino said. “So when you’re having our ice cream, it’s right out of the freezer, as fresh as you can really get unless you make your own.”

McPartland said her favorite hoagie is the Cow Tracks flavor, which consists of vanilla ice cream, peanut butter cups and a chocolate swirl, between two PeanutButter Cup cookies.

Costantino and McPartland emphasized Frozen Hoagies’ close relationship with Tufts. They frequently employ Tufts students, many of whom are members of the Chi Omega sorority, according to Tori Tavormina, a junior who works there now. The company has been involved in events with Chi Omega in the past, McPartland said.

Tavormina, who started working there over the summer, said she appreciates the store’s relaxed working environment.

She also recommended trying Frozen Hoagies’ new breakfast menu, available on Saturdays and Sundays. Costantino said the breakfast sandwiches he offers are, “not your classic bacon-egg-and-cheese.”

“We want to be different from any of the other area breakfast places,” he added.

One of Frozen Hoagies’ new breakfast options is the Sunrise Over Somerville sandwich, which consists of pork carnitas, a sunny side up egg, Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and arugula on French bread.

Costantino emphasized that whenever Frozen Hoagies participates in an event at Tufts or with a Tufts sorority, the company donates a portion of its profits back to the university.

“They get a little extra money, we get the exposure,” he said. “It’s a mutual benefit. It works out well. We never turn down events with Tufts.”

Frozen Hoagies has accepted JumboCash since last spring, and the company is working to expand options for delivery to the Tufts campus, according to Costantino.

The business relies primarily on social media and word of mouth for advertisement, Costantino said. He pointed out that a July 6 three-minute segment that aired on the WCVB show “Chronicle” helped them book 200 new events last summer.

“Our website crashed for two straight days because of all the people booking events through us,” Costantino said. 

Frozen Hoagies’ chief rival is The Cookie Monstah, an ice cream sandwich truck run by a wife and husband duo that started two years after Frozen Hoagies did.

“They do have a very catchy name, but in a sense our name’s catchy because nobody has any idea what we actually do,” Costantino said.

The word “hoagie” is in fact a term for sandwich, often associated with the Philadelphia area.

Everyone always asks if the owner is from Philly,” Costantino said.

But McPartland is a local. She was born and raised in Medford, and her parents and grandparents are from Somerville. She cited her familiarity with the area as a key reason for opening the store in Powder House Square.

Still, the store’s impact transcends local boundaries, according to Costantino, with some customers driving to the Frozen Hoagies storefront from beyond Somerville. Additionally, he believes the ice cream sandwiches appeal to a wide variety of customers.

“My clientele is everyone, to be honest with you. We get a lot of students, we get old people, we get young kids … It’s everyone,” McPartland said.

Remaining sensitive to customers’ dietary needs is of the utmost importance to Costantino. He said that when his sister developed a milk-protein allergy, he grew determined to develop tasty alternatives to dairy-based ice cream. His experimentations led to a wide variety of vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options available in the store. Eighty percent of the ice cream sold at Frozen Hoagies is gluten-free, and the store carries vegan cookies with a coconut-milk base.

“I want someone to come in here and have a vegan chocolate-chip cookie and know that it actually tastes better than our regular chocolate-chip cookie,” Costantino said.

Having received a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University and with a background in VIP catering, Costantino stressed his love for distributing high quality products.

“I’ve always wanted to put out my best product to someone, regardless of price point or who I was catering to,” he said. “When people come here, I want it to be the best cookie they’ve ever had. I want it to be the best ice cream they’ve ever had. I feel like we’re at that level, which is nice.”