Dining With Denise Neil

Shaved ice wars in Wichita: The Flavorwave cannot be copied

Kona Ice has patented its Flavorwave system and is not okay with other ice trucks duplicating it.
Kona Ice has patented its Flavorwave system and is not okay with other ice trucks duplicating it.

It turns out that the doughnut business isn’t the only contentious business in Wichita.

Now, we have shaved ice wars.

J.D. Young, who owns Funky Monkeys Shaved Ice in Wichita, said he received a cease and desist letter from the owners of Kona Ice, which is based in Florence, Ky.

Kona Ice is a shaved ice business founded in nine years ago that has 740 franchised shaved ice trucks across the country, including one in Wichita that’s owned by Matt and Carmond Young. The company’s founder, Tony Lamb, has a patent on the “Flavorwave” system utilized by all of its trucks. It allows customers to customize their shaved ice by using self-serve flavor spigots on the side of the truck.

When Young opened his shaved ice van last summer, he added a feature that would allow customers to add flavor to their ice out of spigots on the side of his truck. (Young also has Funky Monkeys Shaved Ice & Coffee, which operates out of a portable building outside the Home Depot at 3350 N. Woodlawn, as well as a portable ice truck set up in front of a car wash at 11838 W. 21st St.)

Young said he didn’t know about the patent when he designed his truck.

“I wouldn’t think such a thing could be done,” he said.

Young said he hired a lawyer when he got the letter and decided that fighting the order would be too costly. His lawyer advised him to stop using the van, and he planned to, he said, until he started to call his customers to cancel on parties and other events and learned how disappointed they were.

That inspired him, he said, to try to come up with a way to serve his mobile shaved ice that wouldn’t violate the patent. He’s come up with a temporary system, which dispenses the flavors from tubs affixed to the side of his van. If the syrup is not pumped out from inside, he said, it doesn’t violate the patent.

Calling from Kentucky, Kona Ice founder Lamb said he’s not a big business going after a little one.

He patented his Flavorwave system, which was a time-consuming and costly thing to do, and he does take it seriously when competitors try to duplicate it. Kona Ice has had to send similar letters “a handful of times” over the years, he said.

Lamb said he posts on each Kona Ice truck that the Flavorwave system is patented and even posts the patent number.

He welcomes competition, he said, and in many markets, he coexists and even cooperates with other shaved ice vendors. But he does pursue patent violations when he sees them.

“I’m not trying to be a bully,” Lamb said. “I’m just trying to protect our franchisees who’ve invented with us.”

J.D. Young said his fix is only temporary. He’s spending $4,000 to have a new system designed for his truck, which he hopes to debut this summer.