ROLLING TREATS: Young Huh and his wife, Lien Bui, along with brother-in-law Thanh Bui (in truck) keep Kona Ice cool.
Among the many gourmet food trucks in the greater San Jose area, Kona Ice is a real attention grabber. A snow-cone truck rocking calypso music and painted in the vivid colors of a tiki bar, Kona Ice seems to be sitting on the edge of a lagoon, complete with plants and animals. Its presentation may be on the flashy side, especially at night when they turn on the strobe lights and crank up the massive Bose speaker system, but Kona Ice is a serious franchise, with a business philosophy built on relationships with the community and giving back a major percentage of revenues to schools and other charities.
Kona Ice’s San Jose franchise was started in 2007 by former San Jose State University graduate Young Huh—that’s why you inevitably see a Kona truck at Spartan football home games. Huh says he always wanted to go into business on his own; after hearing about the lucrative shaved-ice business from a friend, he jumped at the opportunity to join Kona. Since then, Huh and his truck have been fixtures at local schools, fairs, corporations and sports events.
All of that local networking is important, but the real appeal is in the product. The key, Huh says, is in the ice, which, unlike the choppy shaved ice found at most shops and soda fountains, is soft and soaks up a lot of syrup rather than letting it settle on the bottom of the cup. Kona Ice offers more than 30 dairy- and gluten-free custom flavors of tropical shaved ice, range from the standards (cherry, blueberry) to the wacky (tiger’s blood, wedding cake).
Even the trucks, once you look past the funky decorations, are state-of-the-art. For large events, they can be fitted with “Flavorware” systems that let customers mix drinks from 10 of the more popular flavors. And when electrical outlets are unavailable, each truck has an internal generator to run the machinery and freezers.
For Young Huh, parked at his alma mater, whipping up shaved ices as quickly as he can make them for cheering, half-drunk football fans, it’s all about the fun. He’s the old-fashioned ice cream truck man, updated to the 21st century. “I love this job,” he says as he stands proudly next to his truck. “I make all types of people happy.”
Find out more about Kona Ice, including truck locations, fundraisers and events, at www.kona-ice.com.