Bonkey’s Ice Cream has long been a staple of summer in New Freedom, Pa. Since its opening in 2003, both locals and visitors have flocked to the old movie theater to enjoy delicious homemade ice cream and snowballs with family and friends.
Family is, in many ways, the root of Bonkey’s. Founded by a husband-wife team, family connections are everywhere in the business, including the employees. 16-year-old Erin Kalizak, a three-summer employee, knows this first hand. She’s the third of her siblings to work at the ice cream shop. This is part of the reason why she wanted to work there in the first place. “[Bonkey’s] has a fun environment, good coworkers… I could tell it would be a strong and welcoming first job.”
Even the application process has a family touch. “There isn’t really a formal interview… First impressions are everything.”
Bonnie and Keith, the owners of Bonkey’s, also ask other employees about the applicant. Because many of the workers are local high school or college students, they often know the person applying.
Once a new employee is hired, they are trained partially by Bonnie and partially by an older staff member. It’s a very learn-as-you-go process, and mistakes are expected. “I was bad at soft serve, for example, so [my trainer] made me do every cone that day,” said Kalizak. Her trainer happened to be her older brother. But, as she said, “You have to learn from your mistakes. That’s what the ice cream business has taught me.”
When asked about her favorite part of the job, Erin promptly replied that it was getting to work with so many amazing people, including the bosses. “You don’t often hear about jobs with amazing bosses.” She replied. “But Bonnie and Keith treat us like our own kids. They teach us so many life lessons.”
One example, said the teen, not to take your job for granted. They’re often reminded of this when it rains, which Erin says is the hardest part of the job. “You’ve just cleaned the whole place, and you’re surrounded by a ton of ice cream, and you sit there. Plus, it’s only a summer job.”
Erin also added that working with people on a daily basis has considerably strengthened her communication skills. She said that most people who come in are locals. “You get to know their orders, and you can have conversations with them.” She mentioned. “But when new people come in, you have to help them out. Bonkey’s is a colorful, fun place. It can be kind of overwhelming at first.”
But, she says that helping new customers learn the ropes at Bonkey’s is one of the best parts. “Our goal for the summer is to make hot people cool and more smiles.”
One of the cool things about working at Bonkey’s is that, along with a paycheck, employees gather tips. Erin said that this helps her divide what she spends (tips) and what she saves for college (paycheck). She also added that while this job is so great, it’s not currently hiring. “You really need to apply before the season starts,” she advised, saying many college kids come back to town and resume their old jobs.
For any teen who is considering looking for a fun summer job in the near future, Bonkey’s may just be the place to look.