GREENBRIER — Richard Weaver, a Greenbrier resident who used to drive over 100,000 miles a year working as a Field Collections Agent now loves it when kids line up for his Kona Ice truck. Playing catchy music that kids recognize from a block away, his sparkly Kona Ice truck serves shaved ice cups to young and old so they can dispense their own choices of ten flavors from the FlavorWave dispensing system on the side of the brightly decorated truck.
All the patented characters pictured on his truck were developed to captivate the attention of children by Spring-Sprung, known for children's poetry and games. The characters include Kona the Penguin, Solomon the Sun, Crabby the Crab, Squawky the Parrot and Splish and Splash--two dolphins. Weaver's wife Lisa has been known to appear in costume as Kona the Penguin to the delight of children who all want their photo taken with Kona.
Besides providing a delicious, frozen drink to slurp, fun and nutrition are on board. Each buyer receives a cone of ice to do their own flavoring--which is half the fun. Some kids do a "suicide" cone by combining all flavors and others choose one called Tiger's Blood, something red that most seven-year-olds want to eat. Other flavors include exotic choices such as banana colada, bubblegum blue, strawberry daiquiri, wedding cake, creamsicle, rock & roll, and watermelon.
Since the healthy food movement began, especially in schools who want to limit fats, Kona Ice changed their formula from a simple syrup base like most other companies still use to a Stevia blend of natural sweetness containing only 25 calories. In fact, a taste test done just before their all-out formula switch proved the Stevia blends won out over simple syrups. Truvia is the plant-based natural sweetener that has been well known in Asian countries for years. Kona Ice is now committed to meeting and exceeding the school nutrition standards in effect since July 1, 2014 and supply 10% of the daily value of vitamin C
Kona Ice got its name from a play on the words "cone of ice". Later the founder, Tony Lamb, used the largest island in Hawaii--Kona--as a model for the name. Founded in Kentucky, philanthropy is a substantial component of the Kona Ice business. Their trucks are seldom seen on neighborhood streets and more at community events as a fundraising tool for various non-profit organizations, especially schools.
Although Weaver covers Faulkner County, Greenbrier schools and churches have used Weaver's Kona Ice often for fund-raising events. They receive 25 to 30 percent back on the sales which range in price from $2 to $5. The Kona Ice truck can travel to a school or church festival and serve up to 400 people an hour selling portions that range from 8 oz. to 22 oz. By giving a portion of its sales to non-profit organizations, Weaver still makes a profit and has given over $30,000 back since 2011. The Kona Ice company has given about $17,000,000 back to non-profits since 2007.
Weaver was at Toad Suck Daze this year and had his biggest week-end ever since he started in 2011. He does many corporate events who call him back every year. He goes year-round with indoor events and a smaller truck designed to fit through most doorways. The mini truck is more convenient for indoor events, such as cheerleading competitions, school dances, and basketball competitions. He does nursing homes and corporate businesses like Hewlett Packard, Arvest Bank, Ace Hardware for their "reward days", sports events and hospitals. "Adults love Kona Ice too because they can feel like a kid again," said Weaver.
Weaver went on to say, "I am excited about telling the story of Kona Ice and especially how Kona Ice fits into Greenbrier and Faulkner County. Our business has been embraced by the community and we are incredibly blessed to have found this opportunity when we did." Kona Ice is now in 44 states and three countries (USA, Canada and Panama). You can learn more about Kona Ice on their facebook page, www.facebook.com/conwaykona and see more photos on www.spotted.thecabin.net.