Congratulations to the 2015 Coolest Treat winner, King Kone of Whitehall, sweeping up a majority of the votes at 20 out of 86! A lot of pride, passion, and history are a part of the 25-year business, all components that make the independently-owned shop a huge success with its many loyal customers. King Kone has recently switched hands to Rick Safi, however the previous owner, Charlie Nemeth of Schnecksville, is now the manager and still as passionate as ever about the place.
Nemeth opened King Kone in September of 1990 after growing tired of landscaping. When Nemeth bought his landscaping business, the man who sold him Christmas trees sold ice cream at Ice Cream World at the time and told him about it. So he headed over out of curiosity and wound up getting shown the ropes, watching them make waffle cones, and helping out. “That’s sort of how it started; I didn’t want to do landscaping for the rest of my life,” he said. His mother had always wanted to open an ice cream store but never wanted to take the chance. When a space opened up at the then-brand new strip mall where King Kone currently resides, Nemeth decided to “give it a whirl and see what happens.”
So what makes a great, successful ice cream parlor? For one, quick, speedy service. King Kone prides itself on providing the fastest service. When the lines get long in the summer, Nemeth makes sure there are always plenty of employees on hand, which the customers always appreciate. According to Nemeth, “That’s been our motto for the last 15-20 years: Get ‘em in, get ‘em out.” Nemeth figures if customers see a line out the door, they’re going to go somewhere else. King Kone’s regular loyal customers know at this point that it will only take a couple minutes until they get their cool treats.
What else keeps the customers coming back for more? Quality. At King Kone, they make their waffle cones fresh daily and they have carried Leiby’s ice cream for more than 20 years and now also offer Nelson’s. King Kone’s water ice is “better than Rita’s!” according to Nemeth. King Kone doesn’t exactly have any popular specialty items, but that’s because Nemeth says they don’t need to. With four different soft serve machines, plus yogurt, sugar free items, and 64 flavors of hard ice cream, there’s a tasty favorite available for everyone through the doors of King Kone.
For the convenience of the customers, King Kone is also open all year round. So if it’s snowing and you’re craving a hot fudge sundae, King Kone is there for you.
Nemeth understands the importance in running a business right, in being accessible and available to the customers. Customers not only want to see the kids that are employed there, but the one who employs them as well, and Nemeth gets that. “You have to goof around with people, they want to see the owner here, they want to talk to you.”
So with all this passion, the big question for Nemeth is, why sell the place? “I can’t do this my whole life; sooner or later, it has to come to an end,” he said. But the transition hasn’t quite hit him yet, since he’ll still be managing King Kone for the next few years. He wasn’t looking to leave, but he was made an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Still, he says “the people keep me coming back. It’s awesome, the people I’ve been working with over the years, the customers. It’s more like a family-type place. Like George from Cheers, everybody knows your name. You hear about all the people who can’t stand their jobs; this was never the case.”