Ice stores or stands selling bowls of ice shavings topped with sliced mangoes — or a variety of other toppings — are ubiquitous in Taiwan. However, very few of them can stay open year-round and can still vouch for the freshness of the fruit used.
Mango Chang’s (張智閔) ice store in Taipei boasts of being able to give its customers fresh mangoes all year round.
The store says it uses a rapid freezing technique — often used to preserve the freshness of northern bluefin tuna for export — on mangos, which the store uses as a prime ingredient in a number of products.
The store uses mangoes in everything — mango on shaved ice, mango juice, mango-flavored coffee, mango tarts, mango jelly, mango-flavored alcoholic drinks and even mango-scented soaps — and the store has since earned a special recommendation in a well-known Japanese tourism and travel magazine, as well as visits from celebrities and many foreign tourists.
Previously, Chang was a sales representative at a foreign pharmaceutical company that sells drugs to treat depression.
He enjoyed not only a triple-A performance, but a formidable annual salary of nearly NT$1 million (US$34,130).
However, he made a radical career move after seeing many sales representatives depart the company after failing to bring in sufficient profits.
“I felt that instead of finding a job at the age of 40 or 50, I might as well start early and start a business of my own,” Chang said, adding that he quit his job five years ago and started his humble store at a roadside shop — a small space of about 29.7m2 — near Renai Road.
Chang said the beginning was very hard, as the number of customers could vary tremendously.
During the summer, business could be so good that Chang and his wife would be too busy slicing mangoes to notice they often nicked themselves with the knives. However, on rainy days, there was often not a single customer in their shop.
Business picked up after a blogger visited the store and shared his experiences on the Internet.
The blogger’s review brought the burgeoning shop some much needed patrons.
“It was quite unfortunate that at that time, the landlord said that he would be taking back the premises,” Chang said.
As a result, he had to relocate the shop with utmost haste.
“The rent here is four times as expensive as the previous site, but there was nothing that could be done,” Chang said.
After the relocation, Chang decided he needed to make his store unique and set upon distinguishing his shop from others.
He decided he would only sell products made from mangoes.
Following this decision, he started selecting only the best mangoes — those that were of a grade fit for export — and refused to use any additives in his products, instead placing a heavy emphasis on the organic nature of his products.
It was not long before reporters from a Japanese travel magazine asked for an interview with Chang.
That interview was quickly followed by another, this time with a Japanese magazine on hot springs that was doing a feature story on a characteristically Taiwanese product — ice shavings with fresh sliced mangoes.
The reports seemed to have drawn the right attention, as Shimura Ken, a renowned Japanese comedy actor, also designated Chang’s store as a must-visit attraction during one of his trips to Taiwan.
However, Chang said that he has tried not to be satisfied with what he has already achieved.