Burlington, Vermont - June 25, 2010
Bryant Waggoner serves up smiles each sunny day. But he does so in the shadow of one of the goliaths of the dessert industry.
"People know Ben & Jerry's-- they don't really know mine yet!" he said.
Bryant's All Natural Italian Ice operates out of a small push-cart on Burlington's Church Street. The Marketplace gave him a spot just a few steps from Ben & Jerry's.
"I'm the really little man right here," Waggoner said. "So it's kinda funny seeing my cart right across from there!"
Waggoner started peddling fresh Italian Ice this month after the Colchester Marine reservist scrapped a search for a law enforcement job to be his own boss.
"Burlington didn't really have any Italian ice things anywhere," he said. "Italian ice, a lot of people confuse it with shaved ice, but it's more refined and blended in."
Waggoner remembered a non-dairy product sold at the ice cream stand where he worked as a teenager and turned to Island Ice Cream in Grand Isle to manufacture the treat using Vermont-grown fruit whenever possible.
"On a hot day like this, it's the most refreshing thing I can think of," he said.
Because it's water-based, the ice melts on your tongue faster than ice cream, giving a blast of sweet flavor.
"There's no artificial coloring. All the color that in there is from natural raspberries," Waggoner said.
"You can tell it was made fresh, not made two months ago," said Bess Onegow of Essex. The Essex teen and her dad had planned to stop by Ben & Jerry's, but decided to support the upstart instead. After trying lemon, they're already planning their next flavor pick.
"Ooh, I'm not sure, probably strawberry!" she said.
The businessman wonders if long lines at Ben &Jerry's may actually benefit him. He doesn't see the giant as competition.
"My product's a little different," he said. "I'm hoping this takes off really well this summer."
Waggoner will need a new job come fall, but for now, he's hoping to build his warm-weather brand taking inspiration from that other Made in Vermont dessert that had its own humble beginnings on a downtown Burlington corner.
"Maybe I'll be big one day," he said. "Like the next Ben & Jerry's! It's always good to dream big!"
Jack Thurston - WCAX News
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