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Young entrepreneurs revive frozen treats on wheels

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Once upon a time in Fort Frances, you could hear bells coming down the street on a hot summer day.

Chances are, if you spend any time outside this summer, you'll hear them again.

Willem Kirk, nine, and sisters, Ainsley, nine, and Abi Matheson, seven, make up the Kooler Kidz, a licensed business venture that has resurrected ice cream on wheels.

The three have known each other for years, having lived next door to each other since Willem and Ainsley were both four.

Kirk said the idea to revive the business model came to them last year, from that classic motivator that all good business-people recognize: demand.

“I wanted ice cream at the town square. Then, that gave us the idea of selling ice cream,” said Kirk.

Once they recognized the opportunities available in the travelling ice cream trade, Willem and Ainsley started hauling around a wagon with a cooler full of bars and cones.

Willem's mom, Kim, noted that while the cooler wagon was functional, it certainly wasn't ideal.

“A relative of ours, when the kids had the cooler out, he's like, 'Oh, you guys need the Dickie Dee bike,'” she recalled.

“And we're like, 'Yeah, we're looking for them.' Then he said, 'Well, I know a guy that has them in his back yard.'”

Kirk explained that they managed to track the owner of the bikes down and buy them off of him, but years of disuse had left them in disrepair.

“They were in really rough shape, so Willem's dad and the girls' mom worked really hard at getting it fixed up,” Kirk said.

“Then we connected with Gord Witherspoon at the high school, and the students, I guess in the shop class, they fixed up the bike, the bearings and they welded some of the pieces that were broken and they powder coated it for us.”

She also noted that Ainsley and Abi's grandfather, Bruce Matheson, helped out with the project by painting the bike, while Baker Graphics is working on a design and price list for the business.

“We kind of tapped into a lot of community people to help us get the bike up and running,” Kirk said.

While Kooler Kidz currently only has one bike up and running, the plan is to start work on a second bike soon.

“We're going to start fixing the next one this summer,” Willem explained.

“Ainsley will ride one and I'll ride one, and then when Abi is older she'll ride another one, and we'll just start riding it around town and start ringing the bells and wait for people to come.”

From the sounds of it, they won't have to wait very long for people to show up, if their performance on Canada Day was any indication.

Kooler Kidz had their bike out during the Canada Day parade on Monday, and they were more than pleased with the reception.

“We almost sold an entire cart full of ice cream,” Ainsley said.

“Around $350,” Willem confirmed.

The two said they were so busy at points during the day, Ainsley and Abi's dad had to step in to help keep up with the crowd.

While the Kooler Kidz bike may have just made its debut, the owners say they've been doing quite a bit of business since they started in the summer of 2018, selling frozen desserts at the Rainy Lake Square, as well as to tourists waiting in the long lines to cross into the United States.

Kirk also said that while a trip kept them from participating this year, the Kooler Kidz were also selling ice cream and treats during the Pride march last summer.

Willem said he plans to use the proceeds to help pay for the hockey tournament he will be attending in Europe in the near future, and Ainsley said she wanted to help her friend.

“He needed somebody to help out sometimes," she said. "I just thought it would be really fun.”

Serious business aside, the three are having a good time running their new operation together.

“It's really fun doing it because when you pedal the bike it's really heavy, so you get big muscle legs,” Willem shared.

“I liked how one girl was trying to take a picture of us and the cart in the big lineup,” Abi added.

The Kooler Kidz said they will be trying to hit the streets on their new bike every Thursday and Saturday this summer, as well as any public events where someone might like to buy ice cream and cold treats.

Next up, the Kooler Kidz will be at the Scott Street Summer Celebration tomorrow (July 11), and the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.

They hope to see everyone out on their route this summer.

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