Ice, Ice Baby

TVT_6328Nothing says summer like a snow cone – more precisely, a Hawaiian shaved ice cone. And thanks to Louisville’s climate, summer tends to blend seamlessly into fall and stay warm for much longer than most places around the country. This means there is even more time to enjoy the sun and occasionally treat yourself to something as sweet and refreshing as one of the aforementioned shaved ice cones.

Thanks to 17-year-old Michael Buchanan, Louisvillians strolling through the Highlands can stop by a small shack situated in the parking lot of the Dairy Mart on Bardstown Road and enjoy an authentic Hawaiian shaved ice cone at Big Mike’s Shaved Ice. Buchanan, a senior at DeSales High School, opened Big Mike’s Shaved Ice in his home neighborhood of Klondike before moving to his current location. But he opened it in the first place because he saw an old shaved ice place close and thought the city could use a replacement.

TVT_6321“The people here in the Highlands are great,” explains Buchanan. “They’ve been really welcoming and constantly coming up to get cones.”

In fact, spend some time with Buchanan, and you see a whole swath of people come to his shack – families, children and couples of all ages come seeking something to cool them off during the warm season. As they order, Buchanan scrapes the ice gently from his handmade blocks of ice – using his authentic machine – before applying one of a multitude of flavors. On a weekend he does this a lot.

Buchanan is likely the hardest working 17-year-old in the city. Before he returned to school last week, he was working every waking hour. And now that school is in session, he’s juggling the two with the same number of hours albeit with school textbooks nestled in the back.

“On August 17, I was back at school. In past years, I was done when school started, but this past year I have been working from 4 to 10 p.m. And on Fridays and Saturdays, I’ll work until midnight. I do homework in the hut. So this semester I am taking an AP social biology class and the textbook is right there!”

TVT_6296Buchanan’s respect for owning a small business came from his father, also a small business owner, and it was his father who showed him the ropes about managing a business. It’s perhaps this focus on doing things for himself that’s seen Buchanan struggle to hire someone; he prefers to maintain control and ensure high standards. It’s also meant that when disaster strikes – like bad weather – it’s Buchanan alone who is chasing his large umbrellas down a wet and flooded Bardstown Road in the middle of a summer storm.

“I’m exhausted,” adds Buchanan. “But I don’t think about it. I just get up and I have a routine. There are a lot of days when I want to lay in bed and sleep all day – it gets very busy here on the weekends. But I just get up. I tell myself, I’m going to feel better when I get there.”

As for what drives the young man to keep coming back every day? The answer is the love of people and growing and developing something on your own terms.

“I love it; it’s my business,” concludes Buchanan. “I want this to be good, and you see how many people love the ice. I don’t want to risk bringing someone in and then it’s not as good.”

And perhaps money may play just a little role.

“I have one goal in mind, and it sounds crazy, but I want to be a millionaire by the time I graduate college.” VT