By Monica Faram
Cleburne Times-Review, Texas.
Knowing when to stop and “let go of your baby” and sell is the hardest thing for entrepreneurs, Lemon Chill co-founder Bob Moore told the Young Professionals of Cleburne at Wednesday’s meeting.
Moore and his brother created Lemon Chill, the popular frozen treat sold at amusement parks and sporting events, among other places, and sold the business after about 10 years.
“He had a full life and was full of experiences before he ever got into the Lemon Chill business,” YPC steering committee member Nathan Loewen said. “He and his brother Charles successfully started a company and grew it and sold it and are recreating something new.”
In 1987, after a divorce, Moore moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to work with his brother, Charles, at his restaurants.
The idea for Lemon Chill came about when Six Flags Over Texas asked them to come up with lemonade for them. They were already supplying breads, cakes and other food items for the amusement park.
“So we came up with a lemonade concentrate that would knock your socks off,” he said. “You couldn’t squeeze it and make it any better than what we did.”
Six Flags put it in their park and then requested a frozen version and something different from what was already on the market.
His brother was the golden pallet of the company, Moore said, and he developed the product based on ice cream.
After about 10 trips to Six Flags, they found the recipe they liked. The name was chosen after one of the executives chose words from a dictionary.
“Looking back, that was the best Lemon Chill we ever made,” he said.
What started at their small commissary in Fort Worth quickly grew. The brothers expanded, moving manufacturers to San Antonio, Cleveland and beyond.
The first place they really sold Lemon Chill was Trader’s Village in Grand Prairie.
“It was really a test to see how well it’d do at Trader’s Village,” he said, “and it did great.”
Six Flags requested carts to sell the product and eventually they had 10 carts at the park.
“In the food service industry and especially what we were in — in the theme-park industry — word just spreads like wildfire throughout the industry,” he said. “If something is working, some food or beverage is working, it’s just a matter of days or weeks before everybody hears about it.”
The other Six Flags added Lemon Chill to their parks. The brothers attended the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions conference in Washington, D.C.
“We didn’t have a clue what we were going to say to the people that walked by. We just knew we had a good product,” he said. “People would come by and they would taste it and say, ‘I want this in my park.
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“We knew right then, this thing has legs. We can make this work.”
After four or five years, Lemon Chill was in 75 percent of all the major theme parks, water parks, zoos and baseball stadiums in the U.S.
The single package product seen on shelves today was created after the Texas Rangers requested a cherry version to sell in the stands.
“My brother and I talked about it,” he said. “I was in favor of it and he wasn’t. We decided to go ahead and put in pre-packaged cups. Kind of the rest is history. It really had a lot more applications than scooping it up like ice cream.”
A choice to go into the retail market eventually led the selling of the business, Moore said, and a decision he later regretted.
They entered the markets where they had a presence. Breyer’s Ice Cream asked them to be a partner brand.
“All the sudden we’re a national company,” he said. “They said, ‘We’ll put you in our systems. We’ll put you in our distribution virtually overnight.’ And they did.
“Biggest mistake we ever made. If I could go back we’d never go into retail. We would have just stayed where we were.”
The product sat on the shelf in California and other places where they didn’t know what the product was.
“Despite of what we did, we were still pretty successful,” he said. “Most entrepreneurs have this problem. When they start a product they don’t know when to sell it. They don’t know when to get out. The reason why they don’t is that’s their baby.
“You can only take it as an entrepreneur so far.”
The brothers sold the business, and it has since been sold several more times. They are recreating the original product now and marketing it as Backyard Freeze. It is exclusively available at the State Fair of Texas.
Sponsored by the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce, YPC is geared towards 20- to 40-year-old business professionals. The mission of YPC is to engage and develop and connect young professionals in Cleburne to have a positive impact on the future of the community.