Carmond Young can't believe how much selling shaved ice out of a truck has changed her life.
“You're from here, you know it a great place to raise your family, but when you're out in the neighborhoods visiting, you're reminded,” Young said. “We don't have beaches or anything like that, but we've got really good people.”
Actually, Carmond and her husband, Mike, are trying to bring a bit of the beach to Wichita with Kona Ice, an island-themed franchise known for its brightly colored trucks that blare Caribbean steel drum music and offer all-you-can squirt flavoring options.
The Youngs bought a Kona Ice franchise in May. They received training from “Kona College” at company headquarters in Florence, Ky., then drove their truck back here, encountering a blizzard in Kansas City.
“It handled pretty good,” Carmond said.
Both Youngs are employed full time elsewhere: Mike as an inspector for Spirit AeroSystems and Carmond at West Wichita Family Physicians.
“We were wanting to do something as a family as a backup plan for the future,” she said.
During weekdays during the summer, the Youngs hire a couple of teachers to operate the truck, and then they take over in the evenings and on weekends. The truck spends about half of its time cruising neighborhoods, mainly on the west side where the Youngs live, and the other half parked at locations such as swimming pools, churches and businesses.
One thing about Kona that appealed to the Youngs was its emphasis on “giving back to the community,” Carmond said. Organizations that invite them to their location or event receive a portion of sales, up to 25 percent for churches and schools.
“That was something we thought was neat because we're both from Wichita. We've watched the economy struggle and know a lot or organizations that rely on people giving to them have really struggled,” Carmond said.
Young said Kona differentiates itself from competitors with its FlavorWave bar, which customers may use to put as many as 10 flavorings on their shaved ice. Most popular are blue raspberry and Tiger's Blood (a combination of strawberry and coconut).
Another 37 flavors are available inside the truck, including non-alcoholic versions of Pina Coladas and Strawberry Daquiris.
“What people do with their Konas once they get home, I can't say,” Young said with a laugh.
Prices range from $2 for a small shaved ice up to $5 for the Cowabunga.
Young said there are about 400 Kona franchises. She says the couple hopes to operate each year from about March through October, and may look into buying a smaller, stationary stand that can be used indoors. They advertise where the truck will be through a Facebook page: Kona Ice NW Wichita.