PORTAGE - When Samantha King drives her "ice scream machine" down the street, kids aren't the only ones who come running.
Adults have been known to stop and stare at her ice cream "cart" - a three-wheeled vehicle, officially classified as a motorcycle, that carries a dozen different kinds of frozen treats.
Sam dresses the part of ice cream hawker, wearing a white, starched, button-down shirt with her name stitched in red. She also sports a matching hat and a black money apron with separate coin sorter. The 16-year-old is a junior at Bowling Green High School.
The King family lives in Portage, where Samantha mostly makes her rounds. But she has ventured into Weston and had great success on the "bird" streets in Bowling Green.
So much time, love and money have gone into this truckster that it oozes charm, and oohs and ahhs from people who see it.
There's a gumball machine perched on the back bumper. For 25 cents, customers get a colored gum and, if it's white, a free ice cream.
"It's a lot of fun to see kids pedal as fast as they can, then put a quarter in the gumball machine," Samantha said.
A big smiley face shines one side of the cart and the whole thing is accented by vinyl dots in a rainbow of colors, courtesy of a special cutter that Sam's dad, Duane King, purchased.
The Kings bought the 2001 Cushman truckster back in April. They found it on the Internet and bought it from a man in Wooster. Then the real work began.
In addition to the vinyl dots, Duane King painstakingly added LED lights all around the cart. As things were added, such as the lights and sound system, the Kings would turn on the car and let it run all weekend to record how long the battery lasted.
When they decided they wanted a Nelson freezer, they arranged a tour of the Oak Harbor plant.
And what ice cream truck doesn't have a tune to announce its arrival? "Music Box Dancer" - you'll know it when you hear it - was found on the Internet and downloaded to an MP3 player that plays in the truckster.
They interviewed other ice cream truck drivers to find out their best-selling products. Her most popular treats have been a "SpongeBob SquarePants" popsicle with gumball eyes, followed by frozen Snickers and the sundae crunch. She also sells ice cream bars, bomb pops, fudge bars and twin pops, most for under $2.
The health department gave the "ice scream machine" the all clear to operate two weeks ago.
"It took a lot of elbow grease," Duane King said. "Sometimes we'd have to wait two to three weeks because we needed a part." The freezer was a six-week wait.
But it was obviously a fun project that drew dad and daughter together.
The Kings say Samantha has paid for everything. She's had a savings account since she was little, stashing away money from catch-a-pig auctions and gifts.
"She'd even put her $20 in birthday money from grandma in the bank," said mom, Lisa.
When Samantha turned 16 and wanted to work, her parents encouraged her to do something on her own that she had an interest in. She and her sisters, Jolene and Shawntay, are allowed to dip into their savings for a vehicle or school, plus their parents put in a match.
"I've always told the girls if you do something that you like, you never have to work. And she likes ice cream!" Duane King said.
Sam got her license June 10, and then had to pass a test for her motorcycle temps.
The entrepreneurial spirit runs in the family. Her parents have owned Lmaries laundromat in Bowling Green for seven years.
For more information call Sam's Sweets at (419) 308-7232.
Samantha King in her ice cream truck. (Photo: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)