The original Bahama Buck's. The company recently opened its 100th store in El Paso.
The palm trees that first graced the storefront of a Texas Tech University college student’s summer business in 1990 are now an iconic part of a burgeoning business that just celebrated opening its 100th store. The tropical trees on the logo of Lubbock-based Bahama Buck’s might symbolize a laid-back day in paradise, but the growth hasn’t been a carefree trip to the beach. The Original Shaved Ice Company’s plan to bring a flavorful combination of shaved ice to the masses and serve the “Greatest Sno on Earth,” has been a well-planned labor of love.
Laughing, Blake Buchanan, CEO and president of Bahama Buck’s said, “Overnight success takes about 20 years.” He explained it took about 20 years to open 20 stores until 2010, when the company hit a big tipping point, and it wasn’t until 2012 that things really ramped up. “The largest store we have now is about 3,400 square feet, and we awarded our 100th store in February of 2014 and the 200th store in 2015. We have awarded 245 stores at this juncture, including our 100th opening. It’s because we have been very intentional about our growth.” The 100th grand opening took place March 7 in El Paso.
Grace Clinic now occupies the location off the Marsh Sharp freeway where a college-aged Buchanan built the original 245-square foot store, along with the help of college buddy Eric Lee, now CFO , and support from Blake’s dad, Tom, who is now the vice-president of the company. Now, there are three stores in Lubbock alone. The original one-store business hasn’t grown into a corporation operating in 13 states by happenstance. The seemingly sudden growth spurt of Bahama Bucks was not just a stroke of luck, it was an intentional plan. The company’s expansion efforts are carefully designed and implemented by each person in the organization — from the CEO and CFO, to the individual serving shaved ice to customers in any location, according to Buchanan.
“We call them our Avalanche Crew. They are the staff in our shops that serve smiles,” Buchanan said. He said the company’s typical pace is awarding a store about every two weeks and each franchisee undergoes a thorough vetting process. “Most importantly, we align ourselves with people who align with our values. They have to be willing to serve and have a servant’s heart. We look for those who serve others in their own communities as volunteers, at church and other ways. I love to serve and see how they serve in other aspects of their lives.”
But it’s not just stores’ owners and staff members that align with and promote the company’s stated values. “One of the things I’m most proud of is our corporate culture. Everyone who works here knows it’s one of the greatest company cultures to be around. Our team is pumped, positive and passionate. It is a reflection of who we are as a company, from our staff here to our franchise people to the staff at each location,” Buchanan said. His staff couldn’t agree more.
Stacy Kelley, the director of marketing for Bahama Buck’s, said, “I’ve had a lot of other life opportunities with other company cultures and one of the things that impressed me most about our brand owners, from executives to any staff member, is they see our opportunities here as a blessing, not just a service. Staff is awarded for blessing our guests and it’s based greatly on the open line of communication that is extended to customers. We want to hear from our guests.”
Bahama Buck’s Business Marketing Manager Rudy Rodriguez said, “A lot of the reason for our growth is we bless our guests. But, our expansion from 20 stores to the explosion of our brand can be partially attributed to more people being exposed to our service in larger markets and because we also communicate to our franchise owners about anything and everything, from new products to operations.”
Buchanan said communication is key. “The support we offer our franchisees is off the charts. We have two weeks of training here and send out support specialists twice a year, supply secret shoppers, newsletters, conference calls and a 24-hour help line. Just this year we started the ‘Daily Wave.’ It is a two-minute video with tips and tricks for our franchisees—whether it’s about how to best bless our guest or repairing an ice shaver. We call it the ‘Ice Box’ because you open it up and there is really cool stuff inside. The little snow shack has become a high-tech operation. Technology has helped us grow, but serving smiles and blessing our guests has been the backbone of our intentional growth.”
The latest product offerings include “Natural Flavors” that contains no artificial color or flavors. Also, Kelley said there will be a limited-time offer this summer of two new, currently secret, flavors to be announced along with the unveiling of an “exciting national corporate partnership.”
By Kim Lehman