Kansha Creamery offers more than a scoop of its homemade, all-natural ice cream from its location at the end of an L-shaped small business plaza facing the bustling Western Avenue in Torrance, California. The Free Methodist family-owned business also donates its tips and 50 cents of each sold item to charity.
Unlike most popular ice cream shops, Kansha offers a small menu of flavors. The daily classic four flavors are: Macha (green tea), house vanilla, Mr. Universal (caramel and oatmeal cookie) and chocolate sorbet, which was replaced recently by shaved ice for the hot months. Instead of the varieties of colorful flavors offered by many shaved ice shops, Kansha offers just one – a fresh fruit based flavor like peach or grape syrup. You can add a topping of Japanese An (a sweet red bean paste) and/or Shiratama Mochi (small rice cakes made from pounded sticky rice). Besides these, two special flavors of ice cream are added weekly. At the time that this article was written, four of the last eight specials were: honey (from quality avocado blossoms), Witherspoon (peanut butter cookies and chocolate), strawberry and cornbread, and salted caramel. There are more Kansha offerings.
The owners of Kansha are the sister and brother team of Elaine and James Marumoto, 24 and 21 years of age respectively. Elaine loves music and enjoys being a praise team leader (she plays the keyboard and ukulele and sings) at Anchor South Bay (Free Methodist) Church. “It’s never about you, it’s about God,” she stated.
James loves the craft of cooking and began by helping his mom from the age of 6. He also took great interest in making ice cream, a first for his family and relatives. Then about two months before opening the ice cream shop, he began developing techniques in making many flavors, seeking not to make them overly sweet or too rich and making the right feel of texture. He is careful to understand what people desire in terms of taste. He noted that many of his flavor ideas come from walking around the farmer’s market.
As for the word “kansha,” Elaine explains, “In Japanese, ‘kansha’ encompasses a feeling of gratitude and love. We wanted to choose a name that would ultimately be our motto for business. It’s all about giving thanks and imparting the blessings you receive to others. Giving was the reason we started this whole venture.”
By early September, after seven months of business, Kansha has donated more than $23,400 to the Children’s Hunger Fund. From the beginning, they both decided to give 50 cents out of every item sold to charities such as Children’s Hunger Fund and Gospel for Asia. They have also donated the tips received to the same Children’s Hunger Fund. Part of their donation has gone to help the victims of the earthquake devastation in Nepal through the CHF. James expressed that he likes to measure the success of this business by how much they can give to help the needy of the world.
It’s surprising the number of people who walk in and out of the shop during the business hours of 2 to 11 p.m. daily, except Wednesdays and Sundays. But James says that during the hot summer weeks they closed early almost every evening, at 8:30 or 9:30, because they ran out of ice cream. The reason is that their ice cream is made fresh daily with high-quality ingredients in small batches. As a result, some known latecomers are now coming in much earlier.
Despite her lack of business training, Elaine did much research and even some logistics and planning before opening the business. She attended two business seminars for assistance in opening small businesses, but admits she didn’t get much help. She also felt they “discouraged the business plan I spent months writing.” She also said that she had talked individually with three of the advisers of that second seminar, and they basically counseled her to take more business courses in school and raise more capital funds before starting their venture.
Elaine also volunteered at two family-run farms in North Dakota and Colorado to learn more about local and organic food through the World Wide Organization of Organic Farmers. She affirms that it was a great learning experience. Naturally, her special interests were cows and the production of milk and cream. They now order quality cream for making ice cream from a family-run dairy in Northern California.
Both of them worked hard to save money for the start-up funds. James worked at two jobs as a cook at two restaurants, and Elaine was tutoring English, teaching piano, babysitting and waitressing to save money. Even with all the sacrifices and hard work they couldn’t save enough and ended up asking their Dad for a loan. They rejoice that they have just paid off their dad’s loan after six months and are now free of debt.
Their parents, John and Michiko Marumoto, were initially skeptical of the venture because of their children’s ages. But as plans began to take shape and they witnessed how God was providing for them, Elaine says, “Mom started to pray in earnest and even asked her friends at church to pray for us too.” Gradually, Dad also came around in support. All four of the family members are actively involved at the Anchor South Bay Church.
If not for the sense that God was leading them, they would have given up this venture.
“There were countless times,” Elaine says, “when things were provided to us out of nowhere in a time of need. During the planning stages, there was no way we could’ve taken credit for what went on before opening day.”
The siblings’ humble attitude of giving all credit to God is certainly admirable. Elaine reflects, “Because we are young, we were able to show God’s power through our weaknesses. The doubt that people had in this business quickly turned to glory toward God. It was a lot of work to get it together, but we knew from the beginning that we weren’t in control, so it took a burden off of our shoulders.”
Elaine adds, “God always exceeds our expectations. I’m happy with where we are right now, but I’m excited to see what God has in store for our little store.”
You can find Kansha Creamery online at kanshacreamery.com.
Ray Narusawa is a retired pastor helping at the Anchor South Bay Church and a member of the Pacific Coast Japanese Conference of the Free Methodist Church – USA.