Written by The Business Journal Staff
Overseen by U.S. Army veteran Rob Hensley and wife Mary Barker, the new Kona Ice truck hit the streets earlier this week.
Unlike the traditional ice cream truck model, Kona Ice trucks are dedicated entirely to a tropical theme, playing calypso music while serving shaved ice in dozens of flavor combinations.
Each truck is equipped with a “Flavorwave” self-serving station, which allows customers to personalize their dessert. The system also helps cut down on wait time; a key aspect Hensley said immediately caught his eye.
“I was actually at back to school night for my daughter who’s in kindergarten and she was talking about the Kona truck. I had no idea what it was but all the kids knew,” he said. “There was a line that was probably 50 or 60 people deep so I thought it was going to take forever, but it was actually moving pretty quickly.”
That was in September. By December, Hensley and his wife were signing paperwork to become Kona franchisees and in January he attended the national convention and corporate training program.
“They taught me how to shave the ice and everything and then I just drove the truck back from Kentucky,” Hensley said.
For now the couple is focusing on school-related events and will be making appearances as part of various fundraising programs. A portion of all the trucks onsite sales will go towards local schools and the events double as a party for students, he said.
Eventually, Hensley and his wife hope to make the Kona Ice truck a family affair, and will bring on their high-school-aged daughter as an intern.
“She goes to CART [Center for Advanced Research and Technology] so it’s actually part of an internship program she’s doing there,” he said. “She’ll be with us two days a week and learning how to handle money and process the transactions.”
Given his past military service, Hensley said he is also hoping to partner with local veterans programs and will be looking for more event catering opportunities.
In between scheduled events, the truck can also be found patrolling through local neighborhoods and serving shaved ice throughout the community.
“We’re pretty fortunate in California because there’s almost always pretty good weather for us to enjoy,” Hensley said. “It makes it nice because people love the atmosphere of Kona trucks, with the music and shaved ice. It makes it like a little party every time we stop.”