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Keepin' it cool

Marie Havenga • Jul 7, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Heat, humidity and Hawaiian flavors have formed the perfect trifecta for a local business.

Two summers ago, Nunica residents Timothy and Debra Reed sold Hawaiian shave ice out of a food truck at the corner of School and Savidge streets in Spring Lake. It proved so popular that they opened a permanent Halaula Hawaiian Ice Shack location at 115 Third St. in Ferrysburg last summer.

This Memorial Day, the Reeds launched a second shave ice shop on Western Avenue in downtown Muskegon and, more recently, a third location in the former Nibbles building on the Grand Haven boardwalk.

Friday afternoon, people waited in line outside the boardwalk location to order their sweet treats from a surfboard-shaped menu.

Tricia and Todd Buckingham of Hudsonville sat on a bench sharing a medium-size shave ice and listening to the Hawaiian surf music that streamed from the Halaula building.

“This is a medium,” Tricia said, looking at the multi-colored treat that mounded about 6 inches above the top of the container. “This is definitely a tasty treat.”

Timothy Reed works as a driller on oil rigs in North Dakota. But he said his shave ice business has snowballed so much that he didn’t return to North Dakota this summer.

In a roundabout way, it was the oil business, and family ties to Hawaii, that solidified the Reeds’ frozen treat forage.

“I've worked on oil rigs for over eight years, for a couple of weeks or a couple of months straight,” he said. “Oil prices took a dump and I got the summer off. My father-in-law (Dave Fegel) used to be stationed in Hawaii with the Navy many years ago when shave ice was starting to come along and become popular. He convinced some family members to buy a machine.”

Timothy said the Fegel family sold shave ice at a few fairs, then the machine went into storage.

“It got put in the basement,” Timothy said. “Somebody stubbed their toe on it that summer I was off.”

The Reeds bought a food truck and, with the help of their oldest children, Tye and Marie, began to sell shave ice on the Spring Lake street corner two years ago.

“People were lined up around the block,” Timothy said. “When we got the Ferrysburg location, we felt it would be a really good idea to invest in the community and build this out. We've been working on the expansion (into Grand Haven), trying to keep up with demand.”

Halaula's concoction isn't just shave ice, though.

“We add ice cream to it,” Timothy said. 

At the Grand Haven location, customers can choose between vanilla or coconut ice cream and 25 syrup flavors. The Ferrysburg shop boasts more than 60 flavor choices. Other options include coconut topping and sour spray.

“Business has been phenomenal,” Timothy said. “It's like trying to steer a rocket ship.”

The fluffy ice treat tastes like cold cotton candy.

“The syrups completely saturate the ice,” Timothy said. “At the end, you have ice cream and syrups that taste like a milk shake. It's a healthy alternative to just straight ice cream.”

Employees start with a block of ice. The ice block spins and a razor blade shaves it thin.

“It's like eating a cloud,” Timothy said. “... Once people try it, they understand it's not a traditional snow cone. This is something different.”

Timothy said he and Debra first experienced shave ice while on their honeymoon in Hawaii.

“It's almost a religion in Hawaii,” he said. “Shave ice is something Hawaiians take very seriously. I've had customers come straight from Maui and stop in. They say it feels like they stepped right into Hawaii.”

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