Cool customers
Shaved ice franchise raises $10,000 for community

By Josh Perttunen - Enterprise Staff

Sept. 11, 2014

Jamie Sterken of the Kona Ice Lake Country food truck is all smiles as she interacts with customers during a summer event. The franchise is a collective effort of her husband Jamison, her sons Evan, 6, and Mason, 9, and her 12-year-old daughter Camryn,who is seen inside the
penguin mascot costume.
 
Submitted photo

OCONOMOWOC - When customers order tropical shaved ice from the Kona Ice Lake Country food truck, a percentage of the money made is shaved right off the top, to benefit causes such as local schools, food pantries and community events.

Operational since May, the local franchise of the Kentucky-based business has been a staple at Oconomowocís summer events, raising $10,000 in that time.

And the efforts wonít stop as summer draws to a close, said Jamie Sterken, who owns the truck along with her husband, Jamison. Residents of Oconomowoc can expect to see a miniature version of the truck pop up indoors and Kona Kocoa to make its debut.

Sterken discussed with the Enterprise on Tuesday what drives her and her family to bring a Kona Ice truck into the community.
 

ENTERPRISE: First of all, what is shaved ice and what can customers expect?

STERKEN: Despite what customers may call it when they come up to order, it is neither a snow cone nor a slushie, but is somewhere in between.

We start with bags of ice and enter them into an ice shaver named ďChilly.Ē Itís kind of like a garbage disposal in how it shaves the ice. When the ice comes out after this, it is not chunky or chewy. It is as soft as snow and intended to be eaten with a spoon.

Customers are given a cup of shaved  ice that they can flavor themselves at the Flavorwave, which is a dispenser of the top 10 flavors located on the side of the truck. Or they can ask staff to flavor their ice for them.

 

When the temperatures drop, the business will move indoors, using its mini-truck ó which has all the same features as the big one, but will fit through doors. Additionally, Kona Kocoa will be offered in flavors such as wedding cake, coconut, cherry and pina colada.   
Submitted photo

ENTERPRISE: What are some of the favorite flavors?

STERKEN: Customers enjoy Tigerís Blood, which is a blend of strawberry, coconut and watermelon. Gooba Jooba is a mix of orange and lemon-lime. The strawberry daiquiri and strawberry banana flavors are also popular. Kids love to mix their own flavors.

 

ENTERPRISE: Can you describe some of your favorite things about the Kona truck?

STERKEN: It brings back the nostalgia of the ice cream truck. It is clean and extremely professional, so parents wonít be nervous sending their kids out to it by themselves.

Itís always fun driving the truck. When I was recently driving between the stoplight on Main Street in Oconomowoc and the roundabout there, six kids on bikes stopped and waved. It makes you remember hearing  that music as a kid, running inside for your 50 cents and then tracking the truck down.

 

ENTERPRISE: How are your three children involved and what have they learned from their time with the Kona truck?

STERKEN: Camryn, 12, Mason, 9, and Evan, 6, are involved in stocking, washing the truck and counting change.

Theyíve learned a lot about hard work. More than anything, though, this venture shows the kids that they canít be afraid to try and do their best. Owning our own business is something Jamison and I have wanted to do for a while. It is scary to put yourself out there and not know how it will go.

 

ENTERPRISE: How important is the fundraising aspect of what you do? And why is this a good fundraising enterprise?

STERKEN: It is especially important now - with schools and other community endeavors having tight budgets. This is a fresh, new way for them to earn money. During just a few Moonlit Movies events this summer, we raised $1,000 for the Oconomowoc Food Pantry.

We donate 20 percent of all the money we make to the organization that brought us in. The machine knocks out 300 to 400 servings of shaved ice in an hour, meaning we can keep lines moving fast.

Our syrups are certified as a Smart Snack, meaning they have enough nutritional value - with the 40 percent lower sugar content, presence of antioxidants and infusion of vitamins C and D - to meet school standards.

 

ENTERPRISE: Does the same calypso steel drum tune that alerts children of the presence of the ice cream truck also haunt your dreams, since you hear it so much?

STERKEN: People ask that all of the time, but I havenít gotten sick of it. It still makes me smile whenever I hear it. Also, the music is on the outside, so we donít hear it as much inside.

 

ENTERPRISE: Whatís on the horizon for the Kona truck?

STERKEN: We are unveiling fall-themed flavors of shaved ice, such as cinnamon and pumpkin pie. Our Kona Kocoa will extend the season; not a lot of people will want shaved ice once the temperatures hit 40 degrees. We joke that having a Kona in Wisconsin is like trying to sell shaved ice to Eskimos. Examples of Kocoa flavors include wedding cake, cherry, coconut and pina colada.

Email: Jperttunen@conleynet.com