June 815, 2000
cover story|ultimate summer fun 2000
If Life Gives You Lemons...
by Hillary Rea
Sometimes I find myself longing for the summers of my youth water balloon fights, frolicking in the sprinklers, "hikes" to the playground. Granted, those days are not so distant in my case. But last summer, after realizing that if I continued to play in the sprinklers I would be injuring the entire neighborhood youth brigade, I hit on a way to make money and still enjoy a favorite summer pastime.
Id sell lemonade.
"No one ever passes up a lemonade stand," agreed my friend and business partner-to-be Bridget, even a lemonade stand on a Queen Village doorstep. We went into action immediately, buying the most attractive (though not necessarily the most practical) supplies. We printed out labels of perky cartoon lemons which we attached to our lemon-hued cups. We purchased napkins with a picnic table print and rainbow-colored bendy straws. We even brought in our artist friend Alex to plan an advertising strategy, and agreed upon a series of posters that would lure customers in the direction of our business.
Now that we had the proper décor, it was time to plan the menu. "We have to have freshly squeezed lemonade, dont you think?" I pointed out to my partners. They nodded in agreement, but none of us wanted to subject ourselves to the hard labor of actually squeezing lemons by hand. "And should we stick to original lemonade or should we experiment with pink?" These were the important questions, after all; perhaps wed spent too much time on marketing. After a great deal of discussion we decided to sell both pink and yellow lemonade.
Since I didnt know of any convenient place to purchase pink lemons, we settled on a pink frozen concentrate. As for the old original, we stumbled on just the right formula to attract lemonade business away from other stands: the recipe on the bottle of lemon juice. "1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of lemon juice, and 6 1/2 cups of cold water. Combine these ingredients and stir until the sugar dissolves. Serve over ice if desired." With our own crafty addition fresh lemon slices we created a pulpy mirage of a freshly squeezed beverage.
We sold the lemonade at 50 cents a cup, figuring wed need to sell at least 40 cups to earn back the cost of supplies. At first, business was slow. We set up a stereo, blasted some Chubby Checker and smiled. When that didnt work, we began to look pathetic. I think it was hard for passersby to comprehend the idea of people above the age of 10 selling lemonade.
"No one passes up a lemonade stand," Bridget had reassured me. This, we discovered, was not entirely true: There are people in this world who, when confronted with a lemonade stands charms, can walk right by.
Yes, business was slow, but there was business. Most of our customers purchased a cup out of pity. One guy came back for seconds, claiming it was "the best damn lemonade he ever had." Others liked the idea of sampling both the pink and yellow. (Some even mixed the two together.) One of our most effective lemonade stand strategies was setting up a drive-through service. I highly recommend this method to any ambitious stand owner who has a garage with enter and exit lanes. Youd be surprised how many customers are too lazy to get out of their vehicle for a refreshingly cool summer drink.
My expectations for the business far surpassed what was achieved. I eventually accepted the fact that we were not going to make enough money to purchase coordinating lemonade stand T-shirts. Plans for a traveling stand were also out of the question when we discovered that a super high-tech ice bucket was needed.
Maybe we just needed to be more business-savvy like the little girl who strategically placed her lemonade stand in the parking lot of Fred Segals department store.
I passed up her stand out of pure jealousy.