Kona’s cool for local couple

HARLINGEN — Cris and Jacob Valdez are trucking cool tropical-tasting gourmet treats into the area.

When they wanted to start a small business in March, they drove their Kona Ice truck into town.

“My goal was always to be a small business owner,” said Cris Valdez, who used to work in a nonprofit organization’s human resources department. “We wanted a business that could give back to our community.”

For the couple, Harlingen looked like the perfect place for their new business.

“It’s a good area because if it’s not hot, it’s humid,” Cris Valdez said.

Now, they’re busy giving area residents a taste of the tropics.

“A lot of people see the truck but don’t know what Kona Ice is,” Cris Valdez said. “You have to try it. It’s delicious — it’s good for you and it really does refresh.”

The couple’s escape from the ordinary begins as their Kona truck fills the air with the sounds of tropical calypso music.

But the real fun starts when patrons get their overflowing cups of freshly shaved ice and then help themselves to any of the 10 flavors on the truck’s Flavorwave, an interactive dispensing system from which they pick from one or more of the flavors to pour over their fluffy snow.

More than 20 flavors and 500 combinations mean lots of choices.

“It’s an opportunity to enjoy a unique, tropical treat,” Cris Valdez said. “For a couple dollars, you can experience the excitement of the truck, flavor your own Kona Ice, donate to an organization you care about and kick back for a few minutes enjoying the sounds of the tropics. It’s an escape that everyone can enjoy.”

Kona Ice’s philanthropic commitment makes the treats even sweeter.

As part of their new business, she and her husband donate 20 to 25 percent of their proceeds to the community, Cris Valdez said.

So, she said, they want to donate to local schools’ team sports.

Nationwide, Kona Ice has donated more than $35 million dollars to community-based organizations since June 2007.

“The communities’ first taste of our cool treats and colorful truck will keep them coming back for more,” said Jacob Valdez, who still works his government job. “It will only be a matter of time before our Kona truck captures the hearts, minds and taste buds of the neighborhoods we serve.”