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  • Tara Crutchfield

Cabana Boy Ice Cream

Put on your finest Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops – Cabana Boy Ice Cream is open for business, baby! Well, they’ve actually been open for two months and have quickly become a sweet tooth fixture in Winter Haven.


A bright spot of manicured landscaping, tiki décor, and Hawaiian music on Avenue G NW, Cabana Boy Ice Cream is the brain (freeze) child of self-described “ice cream addicts” Gina and Chuck Erickson. Chuck is in the business of skateboard manufacturing and started Sabotage Skate Shop in Winter Haven, and Gina is an accountant. They moved to Auburndale from California.



The ice cream shop may have opened two months ago, but renovations on the building have been gradually ongoing for three years. “When we bought it, it was a disaster. It needed everything,” Chuck said. Gina agreed, “It needed so much love.”


“Since 1974, from what we understand, it was the Banana Boat. There was a couple that owned it for years and years,” Chuck said. Eventually, the building would change hands before sitting vacant for some time. Looking online at local real estate, Chuck said, “We saw it pop up, and I thought, ‘Let’s go check it out. It looks interesting.’”


So the couple came to the vacant spot and sat at an old fiberglass table to check the place out. “All of the sudden, this car pulls up, and this lady and two kids get out to get ice cream,” Chuck said. The Erickson’s relayed that the business was closed. Shortly after, another truck pulled up with a couple also looking for a cold treat. Chuck said, “This is interesting. Let’s make an offer on it just for fun.”



The Erickson’s bought 2610 Avenue G NW ‘as is’ and started the three-year-long renovation project. Little by little, they worked to replace the septic, install new three-phase electricity, flooring, new walls, fix the air conditioning – the list goes on. The Erickson’s gave their future ice cream shop a total tiki makeover. “I think where it really started was this restaurant and bar called the Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach, California. I started going there as a little kid with my family. I actually proposed to [Gina] there,” Chuck said. “It’s like my favorite restaurant. It was super old-school, dirty nasty tiki, and the bar was super awesome and fun. It was just one of my favorite places, and I always loved the whole tiki scene and look.”


For their ice cream shop, at which pineapple Dole whip would be a staple (now their most popular flavor), a Hawaiian backyard paradise in Winter Haven just made sense for the theme. “We want people to be able to escape here. Come get an ice cream and relax for ten minutes, not think about the rest of the world,” Chuck said.


Cabana Boy Ice Cream currently offers 13 shaved ice flavors and 16 flavors of Yoder’s Southern Creamery ice cream. “We could come here and buy Hershey’s or some less quality brand and make more profit for sure, but we are ice-creamaholics, 100%. We’re buying what we love,” Chuck said.


“There’s nothing that competes with Yoder’s, in our opinion. It’s our favorite – the chocolate peanut butter, the mudslide. It’s legit.” And Cabana Boy ice cream comes with a souvenir spoon that changes color when it gets cold – something to remember them by.


“Gina runs the kitchen, and I’m just the idea guy,” Erickson said.



Gina’s favorite aspect of the business is being creative. “I love cooking. I love the kitchen, making new stuff, trying new flavors,” she said. Cabana Boy’s social media is an ode to Gina’s colorful creations with treats like Orange Dole with Chamoy and Tajin topped off with an orange slice and colorful cocktail umbrella. One bite of that, and I bet you could almost hear the waves.


The couple is working on adding classic and teriyaki burgers to the menu in the next few months. “We love that kind of food, and besides, it goes with the theme. We haven’t found anything like that around here,” Gina said of the teriyaki burger.


Chuck enjoys meeting cool people and sharing stories with them. Especially since everyone’s happy. It’s hard not to smile after a bite of ice cream – all your worries melt away (pun intended). “You come here, and you eat ice cream. How could you not be happy? [...] For less than $5, you’re happy, and you escape reality for a minute.”


Don’t forget to squeeze Cabana Boy’s tiki statue butt on the way out – it’s tradition. And maybe good luck?


Cabana Boy Ice Cream

2610 Avenue G NW, Winter Haven

(863) 268-6008

FB: Cabana Boy Ice Cream

IG @cabanaboyicecream


Photography by Amy Sexson

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