By Andrew Evans
Having developed a successful career in the ice cream and dairy distribution business, I was attracted by the notion of selling shaved ice from a mobile stand. It was the type of enterprise my two sons could enjoy in their teenage years. After testing the waters on our own, we identified the opportunity to bring a U.S.-based franchise brand, Kona Ice, across the border.
The second-youngest of seven siblings, I was born in Scotland right before my family moved to Canada to find better work opportunities for my dad, who’s a doctor. I have lived in Chatham since I was one year old.
With so many siblings, there was always something to do to keep busy when I was a kid. I swam competitively from the age of seven to 13, then played football in high school.
I enjoyed studying history, sociology, politics and current events. Finite math was a particular favourite subject, which came in handy later in life when I went into business and had to keep track of lots of numbers.
My earliest jobs were as a paperboy and, at 13 years old, as a stockboy at a ladies’ apparel store in uptown Chatham. From those days on, I knew I wanted to go into business to make money.
In 1989, at the age of 18, I bought the rights to distribute Dickie Dee ice cream in Chatham. This role involved hiring staff and lining up special events where we would sell the ice cream from mobile carts and bikes. We worked with school track meets, for example, where we would share a percentage of our sales with them. It was a win-win scenario.
The job was fun, as we were always going to different types of events and we got to bring smiles to people’s faces. It was a fast-paced, cash-transaction business and we could really strike gold by connecting with a previously undiscovered event.
I ended up enjoying the business so much, I operated carts each summer for 10 years. The business paid my way through university.
I went to Ontario’s University of Guelph for my Bachelor of Commerce (B.Comm) degree. During my third year of studies, I was offered a contract job with Dickie Dee as the district manager for Eastern and Northern Ontario. By this point, Dickie Dee had been sold to Unilever, which made it a division of Good Humor-Breyers. I worked part-time during the school year and full-time in the summer, overseeing our various city-based distributors, their carts and their bikes.
As a district manager, I organized teams to sell ice cream everywhere from the Ottawa and North Bay Air Shows to the Niagara Parks Commission’s Flower Clock in Niagara Falls, from a General Motors (GM) picnic in Oshawa to a fireworks show in Windsor. And the work always came to a full stop in the dead of winter, so I could still study full-time.
Establishing my career
Once I had graduated from the University of Guelph, I wanted to own my own company. As I had been working with wholesale dairy distributors, I started to put out some feelers to see if I could buy one of them out. During this search, I married my high school sweetheart, Stephanie, in 1995. We went on to have four sons: Kelton, Rylan, Cameron and Lachlan.
In 1996, I bought a three-truck fleet in Sarnia, Ont., that distributed milk and ice cream to retail operations. I ran that business for two years, growing the ice cream side of it, until I was bought out in 1998. I had formulated a larger vision for that business, but the offer was just too good
For my next enterprise, I developed a franchise concept, Twistee Treat, in London, Ont. It involved selling ice cream at a unique cone-shaped building and at kiosks.
A few years into that venture, I acquired the dairy distribution business that had bought out my truck fleet. That took me back to Chatham in 2002, where I slowly but steadily grew my own distribution brand, Evans Wholesale.
Our refrigerated trucks continue to provide a broad range of dairy products, ice, soft drinks and fresh whole, cut and packaged produce to hundreds of schools, long-term care facilities, restaurants, convenience stores and grocery stores in Southwestern Ontario.