“It didn’t taste very good and yet there was a line there every day,” recalls his daughter, Cynthia Thompson.
That night Roy came home and got to work on a recipe. He made lemonade every night in the kitchen, perfecting a recipe that was equally tart and sweet. At the time, Roy had a few side businesses, including selling funnel cakes at the Cajundome. He headed to a Lafayette Walmart and asked if he could sell his new Roy’s Fresh Lemonade. Walmart agreed, and the experience showed the family that selling lemonade was far easier than funnel cakes.Thompson says the family then decided to sell the lemonade at a local festival. “The response was unbelievable, and we literally could not keep up,” she says.
“We could not make lemonade fast enough.”
It wasn’t long before the inability to keep up with demand sent the family to creating a concentrate. They searched options, and after just a few weeks had a recipe down pat and a much easier way to quickly turn around lemonade.
In the summer, Roy plans his vacations around his ability to sell his lemonade all over the country. At the time we caught up with Thompson, her dad was at the National High School Rodeo Finals in Wyoming. Thompson (who has two daughters) keeps things closer to home, hitting up a multitude of festivals across Acadiana as well as local spots like the Lafayette Farmers and Artisans Market at the Horse Farm on Saturdays. In addition to the festival scene, the business is blossoming thanks to an expansion into the distribution side of the business.
“About seven years ago we were doing an Indian Pow Wow in Oklahoma, and after the event someone with the tribe wanted to serve it in the casinos,” Thompson says. “We sell to a beverage distributor and got into the casino, and then they saw how well it was doing and were interested in marketing it to other restaurants and casinos and convenience stores, and that’s how we fell into distribution.”
The family also has distribution contracts in Texas, Missouri and Illinois, and in Acadiana their lemonade can be found at local Shop Rites as well as Hershey’s Ice Cream.
When it comes to growing the distribution aspect of the business, the fatherdaughter crew of Roy’s (it’s just the two of them) has found that strategy, where they are presently focused, to be somewhat counterintuitive.
“We’ve tried to approach distributors,” Thompson says. “But what works best is when their customer pushes for it … then they will pick it up.”
Juggling festivals and distribution can be a challenging task, but Thompson says the business model is ideal for her and her father. “It’s a family business, and we want to keep it a family business,” she says.
Thompson gets to stay closer to home, and her daughters enjoy their role helping out with the family business. Meanwhile, Roy likes to hit the road.
“Dad enjoys traveling, and this gives him the opportunity to visit a lot of cool places, and he enjoys selling lemonade and visiting with everybody,” she says.
While most vendors sell a multitude of food items, Roy’s Lemonade stand is a place you’ll find but one thing and one variety.
“We use good quality ingredients, and we don’t skimp on the sweet or the sour. We wanted something that we enjoyed, and we wanted to drink, so we stayed vigilant about the taste of it, and we would not cut corners about how it tasted,” Thompson says.
They tried a diet version but couldn’t find the perfect taste, and while some distributors give it a twist (in Texas one spot freezes it and sells it as an icy treat), Thompson emphasizes that they are sticking to the basics.
“My dad has been living on the lemonade business for more than 15 years, and all we sell is lemonade,” she says, noting that the company’s volume has reached 220,000 gallons annually. “And he doesn’t care if at a festival they put another lemonade vendor right next to him. We have one of the best in the market, and we feel like people will recognize how good it is and they’ll come back.”