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.
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
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
ENTERPRISE: What are some of the favorite
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
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
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
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.