My mobile Hawaiian Shave Ice bus is in the business of making available to East Country residents one of my fondest experiences during the years I spent as a resident and dedicated surfer on Oahu.
My shaved ice business is founded on a single easily-proven principle — that when people are hot, an icy treat is the thing that will quench their thirst while bringing down their temperature. Having said that, my shaved ice business makes these icy treats available with a nice selection of syrups and choices of ice offering so many combinations that a creative customer might come up with a particular mixture that nobody on earth ever tasted before or might taste again.
The syrups can be mixed in thousands of ways and served on one of three varieties of ice including the finely ground eponymous shaved ice, more coarsely ground ice for standard snow cones, and Italian ice that is served already mixed and frozen.
The idea of flavored ice treats has its roots in ancient history. Alexander the Great reportedly mixed snow with fruit juices, wine, and honey. Emperor Nero shipped ice from nearby snow-covered mountains, buried it in pits, insulated it with a covering of straw, and then served it as juice and honey-flavored beverages. Histories of Greece, Italy, Japan, Hawaii, and China have similar accounts of creating refreshing beverages by putting syrups and/or honey on snow or ice. Every culture that grew up in a location where summer-time temperatures were hot with nearby snow-covered mountains apparently discovered the treat.
BACKGROUND TO MY SHAVE ICE BUS
Decades ago I became caught up in the spirit of aloha that views Hawaii as a Pacific paradise. My spiritual connection with that idyllic vision survived two extended periods of actual residency on the island of Oahu during which I found love and a career and became a committed surfer. I was no mere surfer chick because for a nine-year period of time, rain or shine, I would spend a few hours every morning riding the waves of Oahu, always “looking for the perfect wave” and, on a few unforgettable occasions, actually riding one of them to the beach.
“The syrups can be mixed in thousands of ways and served on one of three varieties of ice including the finely ground eponymous shaved ice, more coarsely ground ice for standard snow cones, and Italian Ice that is served already mixed and frozen.”
My love for the aloha spirit of those years followed me during my subsequent decades on the mainland. I had daydreams in which I revisited those golden days. One particularly vivid set of memories was of an experience that I had almost every day during my years in the Islands when I would sit down on a beach and enjoy a shaved ice. Hawaiians spoke the truth when they said that they never saw anyone eat a shaved ice “without a smile on their face.”
In 2014 I bought a piece of property on the shores of a lovely lagoon in Oakley’s upscale Summer Lake subdivision. As I began planning for the perfect home, I made the decision that when the project was completed and I had moved in, the dust had settled, and life had begun to follow a normal routine, I would open a mobile Hawaiian shaved ice business that would “Bring a Little Aloha to Cali.” I had no idea at the time how long it would actually take before “the dust settled,” but when it happened at last, I finally began planning to make my dream reality.
“My mobile Hawaiian Shaved Ice is a happy business.”
I spent three years researching the business. I made the encouraging discovery that the overhead costs of the syrups and the ice consumables were so low that the business offered 85 percent profit. I went first class with the vehicle, purchasing a new Chevy Express Van and then sending it to a company in Utah, called Snowie, that completely transformed the vehicle into the colorful shaved ice bus that I’m using in my business.
On a cold and windy October day in 2014 I parked the bus for the first time at a Brentwood event. Because of the weather, business was very slow, which was probably lucky for me because it gave me a chance to become accustomed to serving customers at a comfortable pace. If the temperature had been 110° on my first day, I probably would have been swamped.
I now set the bus up at various public events at municipal parks and vineyards. I am present at the Oakley Cityhood and Heart of Oakley celebrations plus Brentwood’s Octoberfest and the Blues and Brews Festival. I work with fundraising events at schools. I provide a nice boost to their efforts by donating 20 percent of our receipts back to the school. I also help boost the fun at birthday parties, corporate events, or any celebration in which the host or hostess wants to provide a special and memorable level of fun.
My mobile Hawaiian shaved ice is a happy business. None of my customers eat a shaved ice “without a smile on their face.”
Photos by Ron Essex