Anyone looking for a sweet treat on the last Thursday of the month in Claremore need look no further than the Food Truck Thursday regular, Ropin’ Flamingo Italian Ice.
Local entrepreneurs Drew and Sarah own Ropin’ Flamingo alongside a cattle ranch, house-flipping business, rental properties, three large gardens from which they sell fresh vegetables, and a marketing career for a product that literally saved their son’s life.
Italian ice is considered a refreshing, healthy treat because it is fresh fruit based with no dairy. For those with food allergies, it is a soy free, gluten free, nut free delight.
In consistency, Italian ice looks more like a sherbet than a snow cone, but Ropin’ Flamingo also has snow cones and cotton candy on offer.
The menu is full of Route-66 Themed drinks.
“The Hi-Way Cafe,” is shaved ice with cherry limeade syrup, a hamburger gummy candy, coke bottle gummies, candy bottle caps, and a scoop of cherry Italian ice.
For a more gourmet flavor, Ropin’ Flamingo offers a shaved ice with cold brew coffee, vanilla Italian ice, cream and cool whip.
Sarah said they are now branching into creative iced teas and lemonades.
Any of the healthy fruit flavoring options are combined with a scoop of Italian ice at the bottom of the cup. Plain shaved ice is layered on top, and then the cup is filled with tea or lemonade.
It all began when they were just a couple of young kids. Sarah was 16 and then 20 when their sons Dillon and Bryson were born. Looking to have more time with their kids and make more money to support them, Sarah and Drew focused their energies on entrepreneurial pursuits and on being foster parents.
At one time they had eight children living in their home while they served as children’s pastors at their church.
And so when the opportunity presented itself to work at Texas Boy’s Ranch, a 400-acre residential service for children up for foster care and adoption, they jumped on.
Eventually, a family medical emergency brought them home, and another one followed it.
Dillon developed a heart condition, and on the search for a cure, Sarah and Drew unwittingly became spokespeople for the product that helped him.
Because of the success, for which Sarah only credits God, they didn’t really need immediate cash flow any more. Instead they began working to build their retirement, and to find ways to give back to the community and to God.
“We started out, several years ago, just selling cotton candy at a local rodeo, raising money for church camps,” Sarah said.
All the proceeds went directly to students’ camp costs, and many of the students even helped out, earning the money for themselves.
“One of the vendors next to us, who had the Italian Ice, decided they were ready to retire,” Sarah said. “We prayed about it for about a year.”
They purchased the white cargo trailer and equipment in 2016 and rebranded it a bright turquoise with the title Ropin’ Flamingo in bright pink and a painting of a flamingo dipping it’s beak into a cup of Italian ice.
Once again, Sarah said, she could only thank God for the success of the venture.
In 2019, they acquired Hornet Ice in Vinita and turned it into a full-time, permanent location for Ropin’ Flamingo, in addition to their food truck.
Earlier this year, they also acquired an old van, and are getting it redecorated to have a full-time mobile truck that drives through neighborhoods selling Italian ice, cotton candy, and snow cones.
“My husband said, ‘Sarah, snow cones are not essential,’ but I kept getting calls from different towns asking ‘Will you please just bring your truck to town?’”
“They were worried about depression, suicide, and just trying to get their kids to do their school work,” Sarah said. “This could be a reward if they could come get a shaved ice or Italian ice.”
The van not only gives them an opportunity to reach more people, but it gives them a full-time job to offer their ward, BobbyO.
“About five years ago, we became guardians of a gentleman who has Down syndrome. His mom passed away at 99-years-old,” Sarah said. “The goal with our new van is that I can hire somebody, and BobbyO will get to ride in the van, wave at kids, and have a purpose and a job.”
BobbyO, 58, previously lived at Home of Hope in Claremore and participated in their job program, but had to leave because of a conflict between COVID quarantine requirements and the legally permissible time he could be absent from the home before the family had to pay fees.
The Chamberlains have faced a lot of challenges over the years, but their entrepreneurial spirit, and God, have helped them overcome every one, they said.
In order to give back for their blessings, they share free snow cones with kids at Vacation Bible School and offer fundraisers to area schools.
“We kind of have a whole lot of different hats every day, you just never know what we’re going to be doing,” Sarah said, “But we love working for ourselves. God has truly blessed us.”