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It is summer time, and yes, it is hot. Farmers are looking for rain, and everyone else is looking for a way to cool off. Just when people are beginning to melt, in comes the cavalry in the form of a highly decorated truck playing calypso music. Kona Ice to the rescue!
Pam and Peter Meyer are the owners of the local Kona Ice franchise. When the term “shaved ice” is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is a snow cone made up of crushed ice with sickening sweet syrup. The ice melts and leaks out of the paper cone shaped cup.
The Kona Ice is actually something quite different. Using a patented ice shaving machine, each customer is given a cup of the shaved ice and then goes to the side of the truck to the “Flavorwave” where every flavor from “Tiger’s Blood,” strawberry and coconut, to Tropi-Kona, a blend of tropical flavors, is there for customers to flavor their ice. Of course, “Pina Colada” also is one of the flavors. Each one has its own distinct taste and does not leave one with super sweet taste in their mouth.
The most fun is watching the children at the truck as they take their ice and add all of the 10 flavors displayed. A huge mess, Peter laughs as he pulls out a hose and hoses the Flavorwave off.
It should be noted that the children range from very small to adults. At Dixon Park it was observed that several adults came to the truck with cups that had been used previously. For an initial $5, a plastic cup is given with the shaved ice. Upon returning with the cup, a refill is only $3, the same price as the smaller sized ice.
The Meyers are not only having fun and making money, but they are able to give back to the community as well. They typically go from Parks and Recreation team functions to child care centers to schools and churches or wherever they are invited to sell their shaved ice with varied flavors, and then they write a check for a percentage of the proceeds to the organization that invited them.
In the fall, Kona Ice can be seen at all Caroline High School home football games, and the Meyers hope they will be able to serve customers at more of the home athletic events.
“We show up and do all the work, and all they have to do is collect a check in the end,” remarked Pam. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Ninety percent of the work we do is fundraising. The relationships we build result in repeat business, so we get calls all the time.”
Based in Mechanicsville, they cover an area from Caroline County to just north of Fredericksburg.
Pam stated that in-season she works seven days a week, often working all day, arriving home at 11:30 at night. The next day comes early with cleanup of the truck and preparation of the flavor juices, the first order of the day. The ice is loaded into freezers and is tempered to just the right condition and temperature to make the shaved ice. Electricity for everything in the back of the truck runs off of a marine battery that is plugged in at night and allows the freezers to run as long as needed.
“We get our ice from Mt. Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley because they have the purest ice we have found,” said Peter. “It sounds funny, but the quality of ice is extremely important to us, as inferior ice affects our product in a bad way.”
The same is true for the flavors they use, buying concentrate only from Koni-Ice approved vendors. The inside of the truck, as busy as they are, is kept immaculate. The health department is very strict about food trucks, but has declared the Meyers’ vehicle the cleanest in the area.
The truck and all the accessories are provided by Kona Ice. The vehicle itself is colorful and bright. If customers are not able to see the truck, they cannot miss the calypso music that is played, which is quite an upgrade from the bells that are rung by ice cream trucks in neighborhoods. As kids come running to the truck, both Pam and Peter’s faces light up. It is evident they both are having the time of their lives.
The Meyers are no strangers to entrepreneurship, having owned a gourmet food store in Stewart, Florida, for 14 years. In addition, for seven years, Pam was a special education teacher for kindergarten through the eighth grade, working with children in math and reading. It was there that she developed her love for kids.
With a daughter and her family living in Caroline County, they decided to come to Virginia to be near the grandchildren. While trying to decide what they wanted to do, Pam saw a Kona Ice truck and liked the idea of what they were doing. She liked it so much that she chased the truck all the way into Richmond so that she could talk to the driver and get more information about the franchise.
After purchasing a franchise, next came Kona Kollege in Kentucky where they went through an intensive four-day course to learn all about Kona Ice and how to run the Kona Ice business.
In addition to being close to their grandchildren, their daughter also works with them, helping out a great deal.
“We are celebrating our first anniversary with the franchise,” stated Pam. “Last year we didn’t start until around July, which is a little late in the season, but this year I think we are ahead of the curve as far as this franchise goes.”