ICE CREAM MAN Treatbot found Ryan Sebastian is installing a semi-permanent location at San Pedro Square Market.
San Jose native Ryan Sebastian and his wife put all their savings into starting a karaoke ice cream truck, and less than two years later, he’s calling it “one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.”
The Treatbot truck can be found late-night at parking lots around San Jose and downtown during the day, turning ordinary public spaces into bustling and unique social scenes.
In addition to provide a fun experience at his truck, Sebastian also has a commitment to sustainability. Every ingredient used to make Treatbot’s desserts are from local and sustainable sources within 50 miles of San Jose and the napkins, spoons and bowls are all corn-based and biodegradable.
Treatbot is about to open a permanent location in the San Pedro Square Market where ice cream will be served out the window of a stationary ice cream truck.
Name: Ryan Sebastian
Occupation: Founder of Treatbot and Ice Cream Truck
How long have you lived and worked in San Jose?
I was born and raised here. I’m from Evergreen, and I lived in So Cal for a little bit when I went to college at USC. I majored in city planning. I used to want to be the mayor of San Jose, but I came back home unemployed and living with my parents. Then I started working as a traffic engineer but I was furloughed, as they put it. After a while my wife and I just decided to try and do an ice cream truck, so we put all our savings into starting a business in the worst economy that’s existed since I was born. We opened April Fools Day 2010.
What do you like most about San Jose?
I think people are really supportive of each other here, especially for a big city. When I was starting out in the business, I started meeting a bunch of people my age who all wanted to do things and start things in San Jose. We all met once a month and tried to help each other achieve our goals. I think a lot of people here are very supportive of each other’s efforts because I think they feel there are not enough people doing those things right now.
I know that my brothers and I wouldn’t be doing the things that we’re doing if we were somewhere else. We wouldn’t have these opportunities.
Where are your favorite spots to take the truck in San Jose?
I really like going to my old neighborhood. I go to a parking lot on Aborn and White Road. I see a lot of people I know from growing up. There was this idea out there that we really should go to San Francisco if we wanted this to be big, but we rejected that because we wanted to do something in our own neighborhood. They’ve been the biggest supporters of what we do.
Where are your favorite spots to be in San Jose when you’re outside of the truck?
I like Mark’s Hot Dogs on Capitol Avenue. It’s a roadside hot dog stand. I love taking my son there. It’s definitely a San Jose landmark.
How often do you treat your son to Treatbot?
Not as often as he’d like! Kids love food trucks and my son is always asking to go see Treatbot. He’s allergic to dairy, but he knows what sorbet is and he would eat it every day if he could.
If you could change one thing about San Jose what would it be?
I think San Jose has a need for third spaces that are outside of work and outside of home. I think we’re on the course of increasing the number of spaces for civic engagement. I think this is huge for a city that is going from a suburban orientation—where you’re expected to have functions in your backyard with your neighbors, family, and friends—to a more urban orientation, where you’re expected to have more interactions with different kinds of people in your town. I think the more people get together and the more we meet other people we wouldn’t normally meet, that builds more trust in society.
What’s your favorite flavor served by Treatbot?
We have a new flavor that my wife came up with, we’re calling it Peanut Buster. It has vanilla, caramel, peanut butter, fudge and peanut butter cups. I love peanut butter and the ice cream is extremely smooth. We’re really happy with it.
Do you make all your ice cream yourself?
We are now making the ice cream ourselves. In total, we have maybe 20 flavors, but because of space we can only serve a few flavors at a time. Limitations have forced us to be creative.
What inspired you to add karaoke to the truck?
I think it goes with the idea that we’re trying to create a social space. In my family, we have a couple extra karaoke machines lying around, so it wasn’t hard to get ahold of one. It was a big thing when I was growing up and we thought this would be a perfect combination. Ice cream and karaoke are two items that require exuberance and a lack of inhibition. That’s why our tagline is “automatic joy.”
Who is the most interesting person you know in San Jose?
There are a lot of people that I work with that are really interesting, but I’d have to say my brother, Mark J. Sebastian. He’s a photographer. He has one of the most inventive minds that I’ve ever come across. He’s done the whole New York thing. He used to be the photographer for the Black Eyed Peas.