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In sign warmer weather is on the way, shaved ice chain strikes deal to come to Lawrence


Forget spring, there were signs of summer at my house on Sunday: Lawn mowers and lawn chairs both made appearances, and the dog started pawing at the thermostat. (The kids and I already have been trained not to touch it.) Soon, we’ll all be craving a snow cone. On that front, I have news. A national snow cone chain is coming to Lawrence.

A pair of area entrepreneurs has signed a deal to bring Kona Ice to Lawrence and Topeka. Matt Douglas and business partner Jay Weber hope to have the business open by mid-April. If you are not familiar with Kona Ice, it doesn’t necessarily operate storefronts but rather uses a food truck model.

Actually, they use a high-tech food truck. If North Korea had half the technology of this truck, we’d never get a good night’s sleep again.

“We can serve up to 400 people an hour at the truck,” Douglas said. “It is very quick. We have something called a Flavorwave station attached to the truck. Customers can put on their own flavors. They can pick whatever flavors they want and they can try all kinds of flavors.”

The truck won’t have a permanent location in Lawrence. The city’s regulations for food trucks make it difficult for a food truck to have a permanent spot. Instead, Douglas said the business plans to operate at events and anywhere there is a large crowd in town. Nationally, the company does a lot of fundraisers for schools, churches, youth sports teams and other types of organizations. The company sells the shaved ice, and the organizations get a portion of each sale. Thus far, the company says it has helped raise about $35 million for organizations across the country.

As for the flavors, there’s all the traditional ones, from “groovy grape,” to “wild watermelon,” and pina colada flavor. In case you are wondering, the truck doesn’t serve frozen alcoholic drinks, but it does serve the nonalcoholic versions of some popular creations like a mai tai and other beachside cocktails. The truck also offers a version that adds Vitamin C and D to the drinks, and a version that cuts back on the sugar by 40 percent. Drinks will range from about $3 to $6, Douglas said.

Douglas said the company is starting with one truck, but plans to soon expand to two to cover both the Lawrence and Topeka markets. Douglas said he never thought he would be in the shaved ice business — he admits the idea drew an odd look from his wife — but he said the idea appealed to him after he realized the business could be used to help organizations raise money. Plus, he said the business creates a fun environment. The truck features tropical music, and one of the business’ goals is to temporarily transport you to a tropical island.

“I’ve talked to other (Kona Ice owners) and they all said that you go to places and Kona puts a smile on people’s faces,” Douglas said. “That is huge in today’s day and age.”

So, look for the shaved ice business to heat up in Lawrence. As a reminder, Lawrence also is home to the longtime stand of Tad’s Shaved Ice, which has a stand at 939 Iowa St. and also has a food truck that it uses for events. Owner Tad Gellender recently closed his other business, Tad’s Pizzeria in west Lawrence, but the shaved ice business is very much still alive. He told me it opened for the season on March 1.


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