The ice cream truck has evolved. Once a cooler full of Good Humor bars and Rocket pops, the modern incarnation looks like a tiki hut and serves piles of shaved Hawaiian ice in a rainbow of flavors. And it has a charitable component that gives back to the community too.
The Kona Ice Truck is the baby of Leanne Walasek. Her days are filled with happy faces enjoying her icy treats. “Life is about helping people,” she says. This philosophy is what led her to purchase a Kona franchise on wheels, but her journey to Charleston and Kona Ice did not start on the mainland.
Walasek found herself miserable in Kailua, Hawaii last year. In the midst of completing training for an IT venture, she stumbled across Island Snow, a shaved ice shop. Walasek recalls wondering why these treats weren’t more popular in the contiguous 48.
Her next move was simple: find a franchise she could buy into and find a city to launch it in. She came across Kona Ice Trucks online and reached out to Tony Lamb, whom she connected with immediately. And it wasn’t because of Lamb’s love for shaved ice. At the core of Kona Ice is a passion to give back to the community through fundraisers and donations.
Walasek recently raised funds for Courageous Kidz, a nonprofit organization started by Debby “Flash” Stephenson that provides experiences for kids with cancer.
In May, Walasek teamed up with the Charles Pinckney Elementary School for an event celebrating a young boy who attended the Mt. Pleasant elementary school and passed away from cancer. Stephenson says Walasek’s fundraising efforts were incredible, with students lined up around the school to get to the ice truck. The event raised more than $700 with proceeds going to Courageous Kidz, at the request of the boy’s parents.
Walasek’s favorite aspect of operating a Kona Ice truck is the expression she sees on customer’s faces. “Pure happiness,” she says. “As corny as it sounds, it really warms your heart.”
She hopes to vend in more locations and take part in more events. She also hopes to dabble in organic and local products, such as using organic agave nectar and local dye recipes.
“Kona is about making kids happy and giving back to the community,” says Walasek, who’s trying to make a difference one cone of shaved ice at a time.