Food & Drink

Feast Q&A: Food truck entrepreneur Juanita Jennette

Juanita Jennette of Local Kine Shave Ice
Juanita Jennette of Local Kine Shave Ice Bee staff

Juanita Jennette got into the food service industry after the economy tanked and the mortgage and escrow business ground to a halt. She was laid off from her executive position, but she didn’t remain idle for long.

Jennette, 48, used her severance pay to launch a food truck, Local Kine Shave Ice, which has attracted long lines. Entering its fourth year, the truck is primed to do big business as the spring weather heats up. The best way to keep up with the truck’s schedule is with Facebook and Twitter. And yes, when it’s Hawaiian style, it’s shave (not shaved) ice.

Q: You must be excited about the warm weather approaching. How does the weather impact your sales?

A: Our turning point is 85 degrees. If it’s under 80 degrees, it’s hit or miss.

Q: What is the difference between Hawaiian style shave ice and snow cones?

A: We use a block of ice that’s shaved with a fine blade, so it’s not crunchy.

Q: And the flavors?

A: We offer 24 flavors on the menu and have some rotating flavors. We also have sugar-free flavors. We make the syrups from pure cane sugar. We don’t use high-fructose corn syrup.

Q: Frozen desserts are a competitive category. How is business?

A: Business is amazing. Every year it has gotten better and better. This is going to be our fourth season. It has far exceeded my expectations.

Q: Did your background in mortgage and escrow help you?

A: The advantage was having a solid business plan, and the organization skills that I had from the business I was in. People skills are also important. We remember people’s names. We remember birthdays.

Q: When did you realize that your business model might actually work?

A: We went to one of the SactoMoFo events under the freeway, and we just killed. It was a two-hour line all day. It was just daunting. That was the point when I realized we got something here. It was a confidence booster to know that people wanted to wait for what we were serving.

Q: How do you plan to grow?

A: Right now, there’s interest in maybe a second truck. We’ve had so many people ask if we are going to open a store. That might be a long-term plan.

Q: How did you go from a mortgage and escrow executive to being hunkered over a block of ice in a food truck?

A: I was in upper management. We knew with the economy that things were headed in a certain direction. I started forming a plan of what I would do. I was visiting Hawaii and my cousin convinced me to look into shave ice and see if we could do it in Sacramento.

Q: What was it like to going from a plan on paper to buying a truck and taking the plunge?

A: It was very scary. My entire career has been what I would call an easy progression. This was like jumping off a ledge. But it was exciting that I was going to be my own boss.

Q: What is the best and worst thing about being your own boss?

A: The best thing is the interaction with customers. I didn’t have that working in an office. Seeing the smiling faces is great, whether it’s a little kid or a 78-year-old guy. The worst thing is you don’t anticipate the number of hours that are really required to run a business.

Q: So, getting laid off was a good thing?

A: Definitely. It was one of those blessings in disguise. You get to a point in your career where you’re burned out, but you’re doing well so you don’t really look at other options. This was the push I needed.

Call The Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob.

Juanita Jennette

Owner, Local Kine Shave Ice

With the arrival of the warm weather, people start thinking about their favorite frozen treats. Jennette’s food truck has become a popular new fixture on the local food scene.