By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
In his pale yellow tiki hut, Mike Buchanan greets customers with a broad smile and a friendly voice.
Buchanan, a senior at DeSales High School, is the owner of Big Mike’s Shaved Ice. For the past three summers, he has served up the summer staple to the young and old alike, seven days a week.
Big Mike’s Shaved Ice is situated in a dream location for a walk-up business at 1351 Bardstown Road, the corner of Midland Avenue and Bardstown Road in the Highlands.
“This area is interesting to say the least. It’s very relaxed. There is a lot of foot traffic. It’s very colorful, very alive. I’m never bored,” he said with a laugh.
The 17-year-old has worked 70+ hours per week all summer and has only taken a handful of days off — only during stormy weather.
Buchanan first dreamed of running his own business when he was a freshman in high school. He accompanied his parents — James and Sandra
Buchanan — to a storage facility where he came across an old shaved ice building for sale.
The sellers wanted “too much” money for it, Buchanan said, but a seed was planted in his head.
“My dad was all over it. He is a businessman and told me if this is what I wanted to do that it would take commitment,” the teen recalled during an interview July 31.
Buchanan, a parishioner of St. Bartholomew Church and a graduate of John Paul II Academy, said he and his parents started looking for similar buildings and eventually located a existing shaved iced stand in Savannah, Ga. So, in the dead of winter, they loaded up a car trailer and made the 10-hour trek down South.
That first summer, Buchanan parked his new business off Klondike Lane in Hikes Point. As his fledgling business was getting off the ground, he said he relied heavily on his father’s advice and expertise.
“My dad showed me how to get all the tax ID numbers and the legal information and started a bank account,” for the business, he said.
Last fall, Buchanan contacted business owners along Bardstown Road with the hope of securing a new location for this summer. He worked out a deal with the owner of the Dairy Mart to park his shaved ice stand in the convenience store’s parking lot.
Big Mike’s Shaved Ice officially opened at this location May 24 and Buchanan said his first summer in his new Highlands location has gone exceedingly well.
“The response from the neighborhood has been positive. They are happy with what I’m doing and like my consistency. I’ve had tremendous support from the neighborhood and the city. I’m truly blessed,” he said.
Buchanan attributes his entrepreneurial drive to his father’s work ethic.
“I got that entrepreneurial spirit from my dad. I’ve got that drive to work hard,” he said.
Buchanan admits he does have moments when he wishes he could spend his summer like most of his peers, especially when many of his friends attended the Forecastle music festival last month.
“But I remind myself that not a lot of other people are doing this at my age. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it,” he said.
Following his graduation from DeSales next spring, Buchanan plans to study business and engineering at the University of Kentucky. He said he also dreams of becoming a Navy SEAL after college.
He plans to operate Big Mike’s Shaved Ice during summer vacation, even while he’s in college. He has plans to grow the business and hopes to expand to two additional locations in the next few years.
Owning the shaved ice business has taught him a sense of responsibility and determination, he added.
“When I get older I don’t want my family to do without. I want to make my dreams come true and make millions of dollars,” he said.
But Buchanan insists it isn’t all about the money. He said he also enjoys putting a smile on people’s faces.
“I like seeing people happy. … I treat everybody the way I’d want to be treated. I try to just enjoy the ride,” he said.
Buchanan will continue to operate Big Mike’s Shaved Ice once school resumes for DeSales students on Aug. 17.
His hours will be Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday noon to midnight and Sunday noon to 9 p.m. He will close for the season on Sept. 19.