By Léo Azambuja
Having lived on Kaua‘i for about 25 years, Erik Coopersmith has worn several unique professional hats along the way; from caretaker for Camp Sloggett in Koke‘e to development director for KKCR Kaua‘i Community Radio to founder and owner of a personal shopping service.
His sweetest achievement however, is arguably his latest one. For the last two years, Erik has owned and operated Tropical Dreams Kaua‘i, Hawaiian Gourmet Ice Cream in Kapa‘a. And his 8-year old daughter, Rebekah, thinks that her dad buying an ice cream shop was a great idea.
“Tropical Dreams is a super-premium, Hawaiian gourmet ice cream shop,” Erik said. “It’s an independent family-owned business, so a lot of what we sell is the environment and the welcoming place for community, for families on Kaua‘i.”
Tropical Dreams ice cream is produced with fresh ingredients every week in a facility on the Big Island. Handmade with as many local ingredients as possible and a high butterfat content, plus adding very little air during the overrun process, the ice cream comes out dense and tasty.
“The ice cream is 18 percent butterfat, which is as high as you can possibly get for ice cream,” said Erik, explaining that this results in super rich, creamy ice cream. “The product is delicious, and the cream is as fresh as it can be.”
For those who don’t have the courage to face such an intense ice cream can opt for one of their vegan and dairy-free sorbet flavors, also made with fresh ingredients.
The store carries 24 flavors of ice cream or sorbet on any given day. But those flavors constantly change, since Tropical Dreams has a bouquet of more than 100 flavors depending on what is in season. For customers who want a sundae, they can pick an array of different toppings to add to their ice cream.
“We keep it super simple, without all kinds of things to confuse people,” Erik said.
The ice cream shop opened several years ago originally in Kilauea, by a different owner. That owner later moved the shop to Kapa‘a, and eventually it sold to a young couple who had just moved here.
Since Erik took ownership of the store two years ago, he made a multitude of changes. One of the first changes, believe it or not, was lowering the prices. For him, it was important to make the store affordable for families. A generous serving costs less than $5, and the kids’ scoop is less than $4.
“A family can still enjoy a delicious dessert together for under $20. These days, I think finding value like that on Kaua‘i is pretty unusual,” said Erik, adding he takes pride on being able to support local families in our struggling economy, by providing an affordable family outing.
Still thinking about families, Erik created a Keiki Corner on the left side of the store. So parents can relax and enjoy their ice cream while their children get busy with coloring books and reading.
Erik said all his employees follow his lead being welcoming and creating an environment full of aloha for his customers to enjoy. You’ll always find a smile there, whether it’s from Erik, Rebekah or 17-year-old assistant manager Noriah Tronier-Langholz
The shop is an independent business rather than a franchise, but because Erik mainly sells Big Island-made Tropical Dreams ice cream, he chose to keep the name of his main product, following what the previous owners did. He also sells Kaua‘i-made Ono Pops, which are popsicles produced with fresh local ingredients, and a frozen yogurt machine churns out what he calls Dole Whip, a sweet pineapple frozen yogurt highly sought-after by visitors. And you may even find local honey, fresh fruits and a few locally made products for sale.
And the more you eat, the more you get free ice cream. A punch card keeps track of how many ice cream scoops you buy. For every 10 scoops, you get a free scoop. So a family of four automatically gets four punches on the card, and on the third time they come, they already get a free scoop.
Because he is a single father raising a young daughter half of the week, Erik said it works out for him to own a business model that is so turnkey. He said he has no ego for selling somebody else’s products, and he stands behind the ice cream he offers.
“It’s Hawaiian and it’s delicious,” he said.
In May, Erik will celebrate two years of the shop’s ownership, so stop by to find out what he will be promoting. Or just to try his ice cream.
The shop is open seven days a week from 12 to 9 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, they close a little later, at 9:30 p.m.
Find Tropical Dreams Kaua‘i, Hawaiian Gourmet Ice Cream at the Kaua‘i Village Shopping Center, between Safeway and Panda Express, or at 4-831 Kuhio Hwy. You can reach them at 635-7874.