A new Kona Ice truck rolled into the Historic Triangle this summer, and its father-and-son owners have worked to keep customers cool into the fall.
“Williamsburg’s heat is good for business,” said owner Jamie Meyerhoeffer, who has been operating the truck since July with his five year old son Jacob.
Kona Ice, which has about 800 trucks across the nation, sells shaved ice in up to 10 flavors. Customers can add flavors themselves from a dispenser, known as a Flavorwave, outside the truck.
Franchisees like Meyerhoeffer take their trucks to private events and set up shop. Meyerhoeffer said he can serve 300 customers an hour.
“I think the Kona truck has been why these community events have done so well,” said Becky McHugh, assistant property manager at the Spotswood Commons apartment complex. Meyerhoeffer served shaved ice to guests at an August pool party hosted by Spotswood.
“All of the residents love it,” McHugh said. “I think we’ve even had kids from other communities come over.”
While his dad may own and operate the Kona franchise, it was Jacob who had the idea.
“My son saw the truck and said, ‘Daddy, why don’t we get one of these trucks?’” Meyerhoeffer said. “He got me informed about Kona. I never would have done it without my son.”
According to the older Meyerhoeffer, Jacob plays an active role in the business, and the two work most events together.
“He’ll hand out the ice. If he sees someone needs help with the Flavorwave he’ll show them how to do it,” Meyerhoeffer said. “He’ll see people and pull them over [to the truck] and ask them, ‘Have you tried Kona?’”
The Meyerhoeffers and their Kona truck can be seen at social events such as birthday parties, but they also partner with local organizations such as schools and nonprofits in fundraising efforts.
“I want the business to do well but I care more about the impact on the community,” Meyerhoeffer said. “Kona Corp. is the same way and that’s why they’ve donated $35 million to nonprofits.”
He says that he typically gives between 15 and 25 percent of proceeds from fundraising events to organizations such as DJ Montague Elementary’s Parent Teacher Association, the YMCA and Surry County athletic programs.
“It’s great for them and it’s great for us,” Meyerhoeffer said. “The amount of giveback really helps them out.”
The elder Meyerhoeffer says he is passionate about providing funding to community organizations, but he also hopes that his Kona business is providing life lessons to Jacob.
“I want him to learn business and learn he can give back through his business,” Meyerhoeffer said. “He’ll learn that through Kona. As a dad that’s really important to me.”
The Meyerhoeffers have only been operating their Kona truck for two months, but they already have their long-term plan in place.
“Jacob knows when he turns 16 the truck is his, and daddy will retire.”