Peter Benfaremon, Owner
Local royalty: Benfaremon, the Lemon Ice King.
What one factor is most important to success?
The quality of the product.
What do you look for in an employee?
First of all, you look for honesty. But you don’t know until you actually get them. So you look at the boy and you see if he looks good, if he sounds nice, treats the customers nice.
What’s the best way to save money?
In any business, you keep costs down by buying cheap. You know, if you go out and you’re buying lemons, you can buy lemons at $15 a case or you can buy lemons at $20 a case. You hit the happy medium. You judge. Every business does the same thing. You can’t say, “I’m going to do this to keep the costs down.”
What’s the best way to spend money?
Spend money? For the business? Spend where you need to spend it. Where it is necessary to do.
What’s your greatest pleasure?
To see the happy faces of the people when they’re satisfied because it makes them happy. They’re happy, I’m happy.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I get up, I wash my face. I do what I have to do. I put my clothes on and I come to work.
How do you deal with stress?
I don’t have stress. I don’t deal with stress. I’m 82 years old; I don’t deal with stress. At 82, you have no stress. You give stress. Understand that? What can anybody do to you? Lose your job? What? Not give me an apartment? You, yes. Because you’re coming up in the world. But me? I’ve been there; I’ve done that already.
What one lesson do you hope to pass on to your children?
How do you describe a whole life in one sentence? To work hard, respect people, do the right thing. Try to do the right thing. These kids, when they come in, they’re like a rough diamond. When they leave, they learned a lot because they’re dealing with people. They never dealt with people before. You know who they’ve been dealing with? Themselves out on the street, you know-“f this” and “f that.” So now, all of a sudden, they’re in here. They’re incarcerated. They’re in jail, really. They resent mopping the floor. They resent doing this and that. But they learn there’s always someone on top of you, no matter who the hell you are.
How do you bounce back from adversity?
The only stress you get is when somebody across the counter wants to be a wise guy. You get that every five minutes here. I win. I win, period. I win, PERIOD. Years ago, I threw ice at them. But that was many, many years ago, when I was much younger in the business.
What’s your favorite thing about Queens?
Well, I grew up here. What am I going to do? Some people live in other parts of the world, some people live in California, some people live up in the mountains, some people live near the snow. I have no, I’d say animosity, living here. I live here. I know people, I’ve met people, a lot of people know me. I know the area. Some of my friends are still here, the ones that are still alive. Even the ones that are dead are here too. I mean in the cemetery. But that’s okay. Better them than me. See, when you die, everybody laughs but you. Or everybody cries, but you.
Summer doesn’t start in the borough until the mercury rises and the lines outside the 61-year-old Lemon Ice King of Corona stand spill across the sidewalk. Founder Peter Benfaremo-still in his white t-shirt, pants and paper hat-now sits back after more than four decades as one of the borough’s living landmarks. His corner store on 108th Street has become a destination for anyone visiting the borough. Even the fictional couple from King of Queens, Doug and Carrie, open every show by stopping by the Lemon Ice King of Corona.
– Harold S Geneen, Former Chairman, International Telephone and Telegraph
“In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later.”