Smooth Operator

It’s common for a kid to set up a neighborhood lemonade stand to earn some pocket change, but 15-year-old Roy Whetstine had much bigger aspirations before he even reached puberty. “When he was little,” says Roy’s mother, Brenda Whetstine, “he would wake up every morning and say, ‘What are we going to do today, Dad?’ He always said sleeping was a waste of time, and there was so much to do.” Roy’s never-sleep, can-do attitude has transformed into a keen business sense as his shaved ice stand, the aptly titled Roy Boy Shaved Ice — on the corner of Morgan Avenue and North Green River Road next to Bud’s Harley-Davidson — entered its second year in operation this summer.

Ask Roy, a sophomore at Memorial High School, if he has found the recipe for success, and he’ll tell you the ingredients are family support and a quality product. His first influence to open a shaved ice stand came from a family friend, Casey Todd, owner of Nick’s Shaved Ice in Henderson, Ky. “I saw how he ran his business and wanted to open one of my own,” says Roy.

He learned from Todd that not all shaved ices — the simple mixture of ice and flavored syrup — are created equal. Ice texture varies, and the richer ices feel more like snow than ice. To achieve the fluffy, snowy feeling, Roy went to Newburgh-based Hypothermias, a supplier of shaved ice machines. The ice is enriched with flavorful syrups, from the classic vanilla to the more exotic tiger’s blood (a combination of strawberry and coconut).

The flavor and texture has had much to do with bringing in nearly 100 customers daily, says Roy, but the atmosphere completes the experience. On weekdays, the radio plays as patrons savor the soothing treat at the outdoor picnic tables, and on weekends, reggae plays, evoking a beachfront atmosphere.

Entrepreneurship is a family trait. His parents, Brenda and Mike Whetstine of Newburgh, founded Comfort Sunrooms, building the business with hard work and sweat equity. Roy’s older brothers, Luke and Mark, who both studied business in college, have given him sound business advice. His sisters, Maria and Rose, designed and painted his shaved-ice shack, and youngest sister Clara is an employee.

Roy has a bank of five employees, but he’s learned what every small business owner knows: working for yourself still means you have to be a tough boss. It’s Roy who wakes up early every morning to “harvest the ice,” which he makes by freezing water in molds, then letting them thaw out a little, creating a solid block of ice to be “shaved.” Still, he’s enjoyed some of the perks of entrepreneurship such as getting to name your own business — Roy Boy is the nickname given to him by his parents at birth — and being top dog. “It’s kind of awkward because I tell some of my employees who are older than me how to act and what to do,” Roy says. “At the same time, it’s kind of nice because I don’t have anyone telling me what to do.”

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