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Snow cones key to success for Austin's Kona Ice

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com

Sales are really heating up these days at Austin's Kona Ice.

As temperatures rise, so does demand for the company's snow cones and other frozen treats.

Justin Huskisson's first Kona Ice truck hit the streets four years ago, soon after he graduated from the University of Kentucky. Now, he's got six trucks and eight employees.

"I always wanted to go into business for myself," said Huskisson, 26, "and with shaved ice and snow cones, I could see the growth potential."

While Kona Ice trucks occasionally make the rounds in some neighborhoods around town, they can primarily be found at schools, with a heavy focus on the Cedar Park and Round Rock areas, where the business got its start.

Huskisson typically teams up with parent-teacher groups and other nonprofit organizations, offering them a cut of his earnings. This year, he expects to return about $50,000 to schools.

Huskisson recently opened a second office in South Austin off Slaughter Lane and said he is working to form partnerships with nearby churches and schools.

Businesses also book visits from Kona Ice on occasion, Huskisson said, treating employees to an assortment of ice cream and snow cones. He's even made a stop at a wedding, he said.

"We just need them to tell us where to park, then we'll serve and serve and serve for 20 or 30 minutes," Huskisson said.

Kona Ice's trucks typically offer 30 to 35 flavors at a time, he said.

Ten of the most popular flavors are dispensed on the side of each truck, allowing customers to make their own snow cones. The rest are inside the truck and are made by Huskisson's drivers.

The most popular flavors, he said, are cherry, blue raspberry, strawberry and tiger's blood, which is a mix of strawberry, coconut and watermelon.

For the health-conscious, a couple of flavors are made with 100 percent fruit juice.

Even though Huskisson frequently pulls some extra-long shifts — this past Friday, he was up before sunrise and planned on working until midnight — he said he wants to continue adding trucks, eventually serving most of the Austin area and surrounding communities.

He's also got his eye on maybe entering the world of real estate. For now, though, that'll have to wait.

"I want to go into other things, but we're growing so fast right now and having so much fun."

Contact Gary Dinges at 912-5987