Hap Cameron has led an exciting life and collected stories from all over the world, but how he ended up in Colorado serving New Zealand-style ice cream at his shop Happy Cones Co., is just one piece of his adventurous life puzzle.
The 38-year-old New Zealand native came up with the idea for Happy Cones after a stint picking berries on a farm near his house in Nelson, New Zealand. The farm had a machine that would turn fresh fruit and an ice cream base into a sweet dessert on demand.
"I grew up with this kind of ice cream in my home town and thought it would do well in America," says Cameron, who adds that he didn't see anything like it when he moved to Colorado.
Once here, Cameron imported the state's first Little Jem blender, a machine designed by brothers Dennis and Chris Little in New Zealand, and launched his Happy Cones food truck in 2015. "I didn't want to be one of those ice cream shops with thirty or forty flavors, where, you know, that purple-and-green flavor has been there forever," the ice cream maker notes.
Happy Cones ice cream is whipped up in small batches using Royal Crest Dairy's ice cream base. Each cone or cup of the New Zealand soft serve is made in the Little Jem, which mixes the ice cream base with whole fruits such as bananas, strawberries and other berries.
When Edgewater Public Market opened in November 2019, Happy Cones Co. debuted its first brick-and-mortar shop at 5505 West 20th Street. The storefront had customers lined up alongside a joyful Daniel Chavez mural waiting to order the New Zealand fruit ice cream and vegan gelato, ice cream topped with salted butter caramel, and hokey pokey, another New Zealand specialty made by coating honey-sweetened ice cream with honeycomb candy (which Happy Cones also makes).
Then the pandemic hit, and Cameron closed up shop for a while — but it's back and running, with all the proper social distancing practices in place, including marked spots on the floor to stand on, online ordering and everything to go. He's also running the original Happy Cones truck, which will eventually make stops at events around town.
While you can get a taste of the ice cream maker's current life at Happy Cones, you can experience more flavors in Cameron's autobiography, Hap Working the World, which details the energetic man's journey over the past fifteen years opening bike shops in Africa and working as a fine-dining waiter on a cruise ship. Cameron worked 32 different jobs to support his travels around the world: marketing, working on oil rigs and making chocolate, to name a few — with the goal of living on every continent by his thirtieth birthday, an idea that came to him while working in a wood shop in Australia when he was 21.
Cameron's mission while traveling was to explore, meet people and figure out ways to help the communities he visited while making money to continue the adventure. But depression set in as he neared the end of his goal, something he discusses openly as a way to call attention to mental health issues and resources.
Once the book was published in November 2011, Cameron felt lost, so he headed back to his parents' house in Nelson, where he worked on his documentary, Bikes for Africa, and reached out to a lost love, Amanda, who is now his wife.
The two got married in New Zealand and eventually moved back to Amanda's home state of Colorado, but not before Cameron had to clear up his immigration status; he'd previously been banned from the U.S. for ten years for working while here on a travel visa.
Get a glimpse of Cameron's adventures at Happy Cones, where walls are covered with photos from every continent — as well as plenty of ice cream pics. "If you had told me I was going to be living in an American suburb and selling ice cream from a short bus, I would have said 'No way,'" he states. That doesn't mean he's done exploring, but for now, he's happy bringing a taste of his childhood to the kids and adults of Colorado.
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