The soft-serve frozen treat was developed by the Dole corporation in 1984, but until a couple of years ago it was only available at the concession stands at the Disney parks and at the Dole Plantation in Hawaii. It’s plant-based, dairy-free, and available in pineapple, mango, cherry, watermelon, lemon, and lime flavors.

McKowell’s Dole Whip moment came while on vacation in Folly Beach, South Carolina, in the winter of 2022. “There was this little trailer selling it on the beach,” she recalls. “I tried it and absolutely fell in love with it. I came home with a massive craving for it, and I couldn’t find it anywhere.”

The Treat Truck is a family affair: McKowell’s husband, Mason, and her brother Josh, sister Emma, and friend Natasha Doan-Motsinger all help out.

She also “had been looking for a fun side hustle for quite some time” to supplement her work as a nurse practitioner for a foster care organization. “I wanted to do something with food because I love feeding people,” she says. “I love baking and getting creative with food.”

She found a 1997 Chevy P30 step van, painted pink, on eBay for $20,000. “It started its life in Michigan as a DHL delivery truck. Then it was an ice cream truck in Florida and a juice truck in Ohio.” Her brother, Josh Horvath, a graphic designer, created graphics and signage for the truck, and McKowell thought it would be roadworthy for the 2022 ice cream season but ran into a roadblock: The truck needed repairs and last year’s supply chain issues made it difficult to get parts for the twenty-five-year-old vehicle.

She spent another $5,000 to fix it up, and it was mid-September before she passed her city pre-opening inspection. Then she had to find places to do business: “Ann Arbor has some pretty strict rules about food trucks. We are not allowed [to sell] on any city property.” So, she test-drove her truck to a number of private events, including a West Side block party, and received very enthusiastic receptions.

Last fall, she added “another nondairy, oat-based soft serve that I found, called Temptation, that I’m really excited about. They have chocolate and vanilla and the vanilla one you can change and mix with your own flavor. With my current setup, the machine does two flavors and the twist, and I have a dipping cabinet, so I can do four different flavors of hand dipped.” She also makes Temptation floats with root beer, pineapple juice, Vernors, or cold brew coffee; add-ins include chocolate sauce, dairy-free whipped cream, and housemade toffee sauce. Prices run $4–$8.

This year, upgraded with a quieter generator, the Treat Truck hit the road in April with gigs at the South Lyon Farmers and Artisans Market and the Howell Food Truck Rally, among others. Running it is a family affair, with McKowell’s
husband, Mason, and her brother Josh, sister Emma, and friend Natasha Doan-Motsinger also helping out. The schedule is on her website,, and she’s on Facebook and Instagram at #thetreattruckmi.

Her latest addition is “a variety of baked goods, all vegan. We bake at the Growing Hope Incubator Kitchen in Ypsilanti. I’m working on a sticky toffee pudding cake for the menu.”

McKowell and her Treat Truck will be at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market third-Wednesday food truck rallies every month from July through October, and she plans to stay busy through then: “I love Halloween,” she says.