Summer is winding down in Wisconsin, and many people are making their final pilgrimages to lake homes and cabins up north. But one couple has found a way to enjoy balmy summer weather all year round.
Inside her boxy white ice cream truck, Diane Stepflug takes orders through the window while her husband John scoops mint chocolate chip and black raspberry into cups and cones. They’re such a well-oiled machine, they might as well have been serving frozen treats all their lives. But actually the Stepflugs didn’t become business owners until they were well in their 50s.
It started eight years ago. When the recession hit in late 2007, John lost his job working in IT. He couldn’t find work. Nobody wanted to hire an employee so close to retirement. So like a lot of much younger folks who are choosing lifestyle perks over profit margin, the couple decided they might as well gamble on a new career that promised a more relaxed atmosphere.
They bought an ice cream business and moved from Milwaukee to St. Germain, in rural northern Wisconsin, where they had a second home. Beautiful summer weather and a slower pace of life sounded pretty good to the pair of city dwellers. And when winter set in all too soon, the Stepflugs decided to take their freezer and head south, to their other favorite vacation spot: Naples, Florida.
Now they’re earning a living and enjoying year-round sunshine: six months in Wisconsin, six months in Florida. They haven’t shoveled snow in over seven years – and they don’t miss it.
But it isn’t all sunshine and sweet treats. Scooping thousands of cones each weekend takes its toll, and a traditional retirement lifestyle is looking better and better. Some days, Diane and John scoop from 1PM to 1AM, a long shift for anybody.
When it does come time to retire, they’ll be able split their time between vacation spots without thinking about the bottom line.