BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
For more than 60 years, The Lemon Ice King of Corona has truly lived up to its name, offering both locals and tourists an authentic Italian-style ice at an unbeatable price.
In 1944, shortly after World War II, Peter Benfaremo began selling ices in Corona out of a small ice stand. Back then, Benfaremo sold only three different flavors of ices – lemon, pineapple and chocolate, but business was booming and soon, a business was born.
The business would eventually move to its current location on 108th Street in Corona, debuting in 1964 on the same day that Flushing Meadows Corona Park opened the World’s Fair.
Some 20 years ago, in 1993, business partners Vincent Barbaccia and Michael Zampino bought the business and have since been keeping the legacy of the original ‘ice king,’ Benfaremo, alive. And it was not all too difficult to stay true to the businesses name, considering Barbaccia and Zampino used to work for the ‘ice king’ when they were kids.
“I love it here because I grew up in this area, I grew up in this neighborhood – I grew up here as a kid and now I’m working here as an adult,” said Barbaccia, the co-owner. “You see the kids grow up literally in front of you and you see them bringing up their kids now to get ices. It’s just that type of a place.”
Ever since Corona welcomed the Lemon Ice King to the neighborhood, it has become a true staple in the community. You may even recognize the business from the opening credits of the popular TV sitcom, “The King of Queens.”
“We’ve had a lot of press from that. We have a lot of tourists coming from Germany and England. Over there, in Europe, the show is in its first run,” Barbaccia said. “They come here and take pictures in front of the store because they are familiar with the show and have seen Lemon Ice King.”
Though the business has grown in popularity and now serves more than 40 different unique flavors, Barbaccia said he is proud that The Lemon Ice King of Corona has been able to keep their ices budget-friendly.
“We still have the old-fashioned flavor and the old-fashioned prices. A $1.50 for a small cup – you can’t find a $1.50 anything today,” he said. “You can come to this establishment – you, your wife and your two kids and buy ices for everyone under $10.”
The quality of the ices has also remained unchanged, Barbaccia said.
“We make everything from scratch. We have our own fruits – we squeeze lemons, we squeeze oranges in the wintertime and we bottle them in a freezer. We don’t use artificial flavors or coloring, so you’re getting top-shelf stuff,” he said. “We feel we make the best Italian ices in the world. We don’t sell any other products here – there are no shakes or ice cream cones. You want Italian ices, this is where you come.”
When asked what he loves most about The Lemon Ice King of Corona, Barbaccia said he enjoys the relationship he has built with the community’s children.
“The kids we hire are from the neighborhood,” he said. “For a lot of these kids, working here was one of their first jobs.”
The Lemon Ice King of Corona is located at 52-02 108th St., Corona. For more information, call (718) 699-5133.
Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @nkozikowska.