About Tropic Hut:
It's come a LONG way from where it began!


It all started on a July 4th in Reno/Sparks, Nevada

My name is Jarvis and I am the owner and founder of Tropic Hut Concession. In 2001 I was traveling the country as the host of a game show. Yep, no kidding. Most of the shows were on college campuses so, like college students, I had most of the summer off. That year I spent the summer in the Reno area because I was considering moving there.

The city of Sparks and John Ascuaga's Nugget sponsor the big July 4th fireworks show of the region, which they call "Star Spangled Sparks." It's an all day event with live music, shows and food vendors. I went to take in the fireworks and that's where I discovered the first Kettle Korn stand I had ever seen.


That Kettle Korn stand caught my interest as a small business I'd like to try doing myself. At that time I was in no position to start such a venture, but the seed had been planted. I moved to Reno in the summer of 2002, got a job at a local radio station and started doing announcer gigs at casinos.

Late in 2004 I finally began to pursue the idea of starting up my own concession stand. I bought some food vending equipment and started reading up on the business. With the help of some very supportive friends I did my first concessions event on New Year's Day, 2005. We sold coffee and cinnamon rolls at the Tournament Of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA. It was a terrific experience that I'm sure we'll all be laughing about for years, but as a concessions event it was a disaster! I bought way too much stock and learned that parades are not good events for fixed position vendors.


In the summer of 2005 I began seriously pursuing the concessions business. I got an SBA loan and used that to buy a big van and trailer, plus a lot more vending equipment. Almost all the equipment was bought on eBay, believe it or not. Even the big trailer and huge van were deals I found at the online auction house.

I still had Kettle Korn in mind as my product, but with a few phone calls to festivals I quickly found out I was too late to get in on that business. Many other vendors were well ahead of me. With Kettle Korn out I got an idea to try selling flavored popcorns, such as garlic and onion, spicy jalapeno and maple/cinnamon. I also happen to make killer chile con queso, so my stand would offer flavored popcorns and nachos.



Popcorn and nachos are crunchy snacks and I had an idea to build my stand with a western theme. Put those things together and the stand almost names itself: Crunch Corral! With that in mind I got to work in summer of 2005 to build a stand that resembled a corral. Oh, if only I could have those months of my life back. It was altogether the wrong idea, but we live and learn, don't we?

I built the "corral" myself with my limited woodworking skills. I used hinges and bolts with wing nuts to hold the pieces together. That way the stand would be sturdy but also could be taken apart and put together easily. I finished the stand in my back yard and that's the only time it was ever completely set up. We used parts of the railing once but the complete corral stand was never used. What was I just saying a moment ago? Oh yeah, we live and learn.

How does a popcorn and nachos stand called Crunch Corral turn into a tropical drink stand called Tropic Hut? It only took one event.

To be historically accurate, our first actual concessions event was the Pasadena Rose Parade on New Year's Day, 2005. That didn't really count as a Crunch Corral event, though, because I just dragged some friends along for fun and we didn't carry any items, other than nachos, that I planned to offer in Crunch Corral.

The first true event I went to as a concessionaire was Run-A-Mucca Motorcycle Festival in Winnemucca, Nevada. That was Memorial Weekend of 2006, and it changed my whole perspective about the concessions business.


I hadn't worked out the logistics of making flavored popcorns in time to offer them at our first festival. Commercial popcorn machines are very expensive and demand unbelievable electrical power--something not always available at festivals. For that first event we only offered my delicious nachos, hot dogs, limeade and coffee. The coffee was pure luck. We just happened to have the coffee urns because of doing the Rose Parade five months earlier. Incredibly, the weather turned very cold and rainy at Run-A-Mucca that year, so we ended up selling more coffee than anything else!

Since the second day of Run-A-Mucca was almost completely rained out I had plenty of time to sit in the RV trailer and think about my stand. The "corral" stand was far too massive and too much trouble to set up, my signage was woefully inadequate and even my products needed to be reconsidered.


The end result of my brainstorming and observing other vendors at that very first event was a whole new concept for my concessions stand. I was going to focus on drinks, not food, and specifically I was going to offer blended drinks. I kicked around lots of ideas for a theme, bugging my friends continuously for what they thought about the latest idea. I also spent weeks toying with drink recipes--and test tasting those on my friends, too!

Finally, Tropic Hut emerged. In keeping with the tropic theme I bucked conventional thinking and made my banners dark green with bright yellow lettering. (Most sign makers will say banners should be bright yellow with red or black lettering.) My idea was for the banners to resemble giant palm leaves. They worked even better than I expected because they make Tropic Hut really stand out from the other vendors.

At first our drinks were to be Tropic Twister, Tropic Silkie and coffee. The Tropic Silkie was introduced for the first time at the 2006 Tahoe Arts Festival. I immediately knew I had hit on the right idea. Tropic Silkies were a big hit.

Late one afternoon at that same festival someone asked if I served iced coffee. Doh! Smack self on forehead. I could make blended coffee drinks, too! And thus Java Silkies became part of Tropic Hut's menu.

That's how Tropic Hut concession came to be what it is today.