Good Life

Lemonade stand’s secret ingredient is ‘a smile’

The Herlocher family started a lemonade stand in front of their home on Fairmont Street during the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts 9 years ago.
The Herlocher family started a lemonade stand in front of their home on Fairmont Street during the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts 9 years ago. adrey@centredaily.com

Charlie Herlocher is used to picking up his team.

A lacrosse goalie, he’s the last line of defense, the recourse when all else fails. But his talents have taken him to Long Island for lacrosse camp this weekend. So for the first time in nine years, the part-time business mogul is missing the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, and his thriving lemonade stand will be left in the hands of his two younger sisters.

The proposition may scare other business owners. Charlie, 14, isn’t one of them.

“I’m confident in them,” he said. “I’ve counted on them a lot over the years.”

On Thursday, Phebe and Lanie Herlocher passed out Dixie cups of lemonade, keeping watch over the family’s stand while their brother was away. Their Fairmount Avenue home served as a welcome oasis for passersby looking to avoid the heat.

Since the Herlochers started the stand nine years ago, they’ve donated the proceeds to local charities or families in need. This year, a neon sign tells customers their money would go to the Park Forest Middle School Mini-Thon. Phebe, 12, participated in the event last year.

Neil Herlocher, the kids’ father and president of Herlocher Foods, said the family conferences each year to select a charity or family. One year, they donated to a family whose daughter was fighting Porphyria, a group of disorders that can affect the skin or nervous system. Other years they’ve given to an individual who suffered a stroke and another who had lung cancer. The latter’s family, the Ebbs, donated the money back to the lemonade stand a year later. The money was then donated again to a local library.

“They donated all their money last year to pay it forward,” Charlie said.

Originally, the Herlochers got the idea for the stand after visiting a friend in Connecticut, whose family had done something similar. The first year, Neil said, was non-stop. Between the cookies and the lemonade, someone was running to the store every two hours or so.

Since then, they’ve streamlined the process. Neighbors, friends and family filter in and out, offering help. It’s not all work either. The Herlochers usually set up a slip-and-slide, Neil said, in the backyard and turn on the sprinklers.

“So everyone we know comes by for a drink at some point and their kids just jump in and start working,” Neil said.

He estimates they fill their 10-gallon Gatorade cooler at least six times a day. On a busy day, the number of trips can be eight or nine. About 25 kids help with the stand, he said.

“And they eat and drink a lot of the lemonade and cookies,” Neil added. “But we have a good time doing it.”

Even though Charlie is away, he knows he’s left the stand in good hands. Phebe, he said, is “very business-oriented.” As head of sales, she’s given out coupons to vendors in an effort to draw interest. In some ways, she’s almost been too successful.

“I remember getting like mad at her because she gave out way too many the first time,” Charlie said, laughing. “She gave them out to vendors, but she also gave a lot out to random people.”

Yet his sister’s generosity may have worked: The family lemonade stand continues to be a popular destination for the community.

And for Charlie, the family’s secret ingredient isn’t extra sugar or another squeeze of lemon.

“It’s our smile,” he said. “It started out as just for fun, and now it’s turned into so much more.”

Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4698, @rogervanscy

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