Here’s The Scoop

Lewis DuBois, vice president of Tropical Dreams, stands in front of the company’s new truck.

Tropical Dreams Ice Cream has been under new ownership for a little over a year, and vice president Lewis Dubois has big plans for the Big Island’s little ice cream Shop

From humble beginnings in Kapa‘au in 1983 to becoming the undisputed leader of Hawai‘i-made ice cream in the state, Tropical Dreams Ice Cream continues to grow, expanding beyond our island shores to select sites on the mainland.

Under new ownership since last year, the Waimea-based company is now owned and operated by the DuBois family from Austin, Texas. Having recently earned his master’s degree in engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, 25-year-old Lewis DuBois oversees the on-site operations after his family purchased the business from longtime owners John and Nancy Edney in July 2018.

Lewis DuBois, vice president of Tropical Dreams, stands in front of the company’s new truck.

“My dad happened upon the business for sale when he was helping a friend purchase a dental practice,” recounts DuBois, vice president of Tropical Dreams Ice Cream. “We realized it was a fantastic and very unique company with room to expand. My dad asked me if I was willing to help with the management of the business, so I moved from Texas to Waimea, and here we are.”

Tropical Dreams is considered premium ice cream by industry standards. It derives its rich, dense qualities from the high butterfat content (18 percent), as well as less air by volume. The melt-in-your-mouth results are achieved through a process called “low overrun,” which reduces the amount of air mixed in during the freezing process, making Tropical Dreams a creamier, richer and more indulgent product. Generic ice cream by comparison contains a high percentage of air and about 10 percent butterfat.

Locally sourced ingredients are often used in the production of certain flavors, such as mango and liliko‘i. The company sources half of its cream from O‘ahu-based Meadow Gold Dairies.

Director of operations Sheena Nishioka with her daughter Arissa in the
lobby of Tropical Dreams in Waimea.

“With the production capacity that Hawaiian dairies have, we can obtain half of our cream locally and the other half from off island,” says DuBois. “We are committed to using as much local cream as possible, as well as local ingredients like white pineapple or dragonfruit.”

Served at top restaurants, hotels and resorts statewide, Tropical Dreams is the product of choice on dessert menus and among chefs. Here on the Big Island, residents and visitors are fortunate to be able to buy Tropical Dreams Ice Cream by the pint in grocery stores (KTA and Foodland), as well as at Island Naturals, Island Gourmet Markets, Puakō General Store and more.

Tropical Dreams has more than 200 flavors on rotation.

Additionally, dipping stations are located across the island including at Kohala Coffee Mill in Hāwī, ‘Ānuenue Shave Ice in Kawaihae and Discovery Antiques in Kealakekua, where 11 different flavors are served.

“Even though we distribute to the major islands, Big Island people are lucky to have easy access to our product at grocery stores, as well as through our network of dipping station vendors and even here at our facility,” says DuBois. “Primarily, however, our business is geared to food-service customers such as restaurants. We mostly sell in three-gallon and one-and-a-half gallon sizes. The growth of the business has relied on our reputation for quality, especially among food-service providers.”

Speaking of flavors, there are more than 200 of them on the Tropical Dreams roster. The most popular include Tahitian Vanilla, Chocolate-Coconut-Macnut, Toasted Coconut, Kona Coffee, Green Tea, Liliko‘i, Mango and Salted Caramel, to name a few.

“New flavors come out of customer demand,” he adds. “My attention has also been directed toward improving existing flavors. My work involves a lot of paperwork, maintenance of the equipment as well as working with our outstanding staff. One of our employees has been here for 17 years.”

With two service trucks, Tropical Dreams employs 14 people. Located in a 7,000-square-foot facility on the five-acre property, Lālāmilo Farm, Tropical Dreams evolved into the company it is today thanks to the Edneys, who purchased the business in 2001 and relocated the facility to Waimea from its original location in Kawaihae —admittedly the hottest and most unlikely spot on the island for producing ice cream at that time.

The cooler, larger property in Waimea was previously owned by Honolulu Poi Company. The Edneys brought in energy-efficient equipment and refrigeration, reducing the company’s electric bill by 20 percent while increasing sales tenfold within just a couple of years. Although the Edneys decided to finally sell the ice cream company, they still own the Lālāmilo property. Their mentorship during the ownership transition was invaluable.

“You can tell how much they care about the business,” DuBois says. “They provided me with so much help. I’m young and have the energy to bring the business to its next stage. We are looking to expand in the wholesale sector, as well as achieve more growth on the neighbor islands and the mainland.”

Back home in Austin, the DuBois family will be unveiling the first mainland location of Tropical Dreams, which will serve up ice creams, gelatos and sorbets. Tropical Dreams has also arrived in California at Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream shop in San Diego.

Here on Hawai‘i Island, Du-Bois is enjoying the sweet taste of success while appreciating his home in Waimea.

“Waimea is the friendliest, most tight-knit community I have ever been a part of,” he says of his new hometown. “It’s so awesome to be living and working here.

There is a real sense of community.”

For more information, visit tropicaldreamsicecream.com.

Mango sorbet is one of 11 flavors available at Discovery Antiques in Kealakekua, one of many “dipping stations” that serve Tropical Dreams throughout the Big Island.