BRADENTON -- The coolest ice cream truck ever just pulled into the parking lot. It touts a semi-tropical wrap: a palm tree-lined tiki hut, parrots and Kona, the happy-go-lucky penguin mascot. Lively calypso music flows out of the Bose sound system.
"The Kona Ice man is here," yell excited kids and parents.
Glen Goode is the Kona Ice man. A retired insurance agent from Texas, Goode purchased the mobile franchise in May. Kona Ice Suncoast is now seen at schools and sporting events across Manatee County. A small, family-run business, his wife Jenifer and their two teenage boys help out. And Goode says he partners with the organizations, returning 25 percent of the gross sales to them.
The colorful truck makes the rounds at ball games, church and corporate events and fund-raisers. On Tuesday, it was set up at W.D. Sugg Middle School in Bradenton, raising funds for the physical education department. "By returning 25 percent of our gross sales back to them, this innovative business plan was one of the things that drew me to the company," says Goode, 47. "It's not just a business, you become integrally involved in the community. Fundraising events have accounted for about 80 percent of my business.
"In just over six months we've donated almost $9,000 to the local community," he says.
Nationally, Kona Ice has
donated more than $4 million to schools, sports teams, and charities. Conceived in 2007, the fast-growing Kentucky-based company now has more than 300 trucks in 40 states. Franchise owners purchase and maintain their own trucks and product; the corporate office contracts with suppliers to guarantee low prices.Goode's territory consists of four zip codes. So far he's the first and only Kona man in the immediate area, so he's allowed to work an expanded region. "We create gourmet flavored shaved ice treats. These are not your average snow cones," says Goode. "They're available in dozens of custom flavors like creamsicle and banana daiquiri. Or, folks mix their own concoctions at the Flavorwave do-it-yourself syrup bar. Kids really enjoy creating their own unique recipe." Kyleigh Mclain, 11, drizzled on all 10 of the most popular syrups.
"It looks kind of odd this way; it's brownish purple. But, it tastes awesome; like super sweet fruit punch," she said. Kash Johnson, 13, topped his ice with Tiger's Blood: "It's bright red, tastes like cherries, and is my favorite."
Goode noted that Tiger's Blood is one of the most popular flavors, though he's not sure if it's because of the name or the coconutty fruit taste.The truck makes regularly scheduled visits to preschools and celebrates milestones at area workplaces.
"Honestly, who would want to miss school or work on ice cream day? Every day is different, that's one of the things I like about this job. The only constant is happy customers," says Goode.
Ten oz. treats cost $2, a 16 oz. cup is $4. Ice cream goodies are available, too. To schedule a visit from the Kona Ice man, call 941-779-6030 or visit www.konasuncoast.com.