To be a military spouse is to live a life a sacrifice. You have to be resilient, strong, patient, flexible, and understanding. In a lot of ways, you have to buy into the military just as much as your spouse does. Just for reference, between Active Duty and the Reserve/National Guard, there are nearly 1 million military spouses, 92% of which, are women. Women, who are holding down the fort, doing the best they can to keep life stable, while also being a strong support system for their spouse when they’re away and when they return home. Research has shown though that it can be difficult for them to find their own path and to find careers that give them a purpose that’s all their own.  

For Jodi Benge, a military wife of now nearly 20 years, that purpose came in the form of shaved ice.   

Around 2009, while living on base at Ft. Campbell Kentucky, Jodi and her husband Brian, started a tradition. A sweet, yet simple, date night that allowed them to spend much needed time together after a long day. Nearly every evening when Brian got home, he and Jodi would make the walk, hand in hand, to the PX. Once there, they would get a refreshing shaved ice. As this tradition continued, and they became regulars, their friendship with the owners of the shaved ice business grew. So, when it was time for the owners to upgrade, they generously allowed Jodi to use their old equipment and trailer. From there, Jodi started selling shaved ice at local motorcross events on the weekends. To have something that was all hers was truly gratifying. Unfortunately, as life in the military goes, Brian was given orders for a move.  

To Alaska…  

Which meant Jodi’s shaved ice dream was put on pause.  

In this life though, some things are just meant to be…which is why in 2013, when Brian and Jodi were given the chance…they moved back to Ft. Campbell Kentucky. A place that held a special spot in their hearts. It was there, in a truly unexpected turn of events, that the owners of the shaved ice trailer that the Benge’s had been regulars at, found out they were moving away. But they didn’t plan to take their shaved ice trailer with them. They wanted to keep it at Ft. Campbell. Even more incredible though, is that they wanted to sell the business to Jodi. An offer she happily and excitedly took them up on.  

From there, Jodi bought a bike and began riding to work every day. She, her bike, and her shaved ice stand became a bright spot at Ft. Campbell Kentucky. She also had something that kept her busy, that she had fun doing, and that was all her own. It also allowed her to invest in herself while still allotting her the freedom and independence to be the strong support system she’d always been for her husband.   

Military life being what it is though, Jodi and Brian were given the chance to move once again.  

In 2016, Brian was afforded the opportunity to come back home. To Hamilton!  

Leaving Ft Campbell Kentucky behind, and eventually selling Jodi’s shaved ice trailer. The Benges were able to make the move back to where their story began and where they had family. It was a dream come true. Hamilton was the place where they went to Prom together, where they fell in love as two young kids and where they got married. What a gift to be back home! But what did that mean for Jodi and the business she’d grown so fond of? Would she once again find something of her own? Something that didn’t simply fill a void, but that she truly loved doing.   

The answer to those questions came while driving around one day. By complete happenstance, they stumbled upon an old food truck. It needed some work, but it set a dream in motion once again within Jodi. After a bit of elbow grease, a paint job, and some maintenance…. Jodi was back in business! This time…with Tropicool!  

Setting up once again at motorcross events, Jodi’s shaved ice was a hit! But people wanted more! They wanted Tropicool at other places and other events.  So, in an effort to meet the need, to pour back into her business and to expand the dream that had been simmering since 2009…Jodi bought herself a quaint little kiosk, had it wrapped in colors that make you feel like you’re on a beach vacation, and she got to work looking for a place that would let her set up shop. While some businesses didn’t see the vision…one place did. Noonan’s on Main Street.   

It’s there, in that parking lot, from late April-September, where you’ll find Jodi selling her delicious shaved ice. Not to customers, but to friends. Because that’s how she sees each and every person that comes through her line. They’re special to her. It’s more than a shaved ice. It’s the tradition she started many years ago with her husband as they walked to the PX, it’s the joy of having something all her own, it’s all the moves that brought her to where she is today and…it’s pure Jodi. She loves Tropicool and everything that it is. Yes, it’s a business. But it’s bigger than that. From the smile you get from Jodi every single time you come through, to the bright, cheerful clothes and nail polish she wears…Tropicool, is an experience that will instantly brighten your day. 

Jodi and her shaved ice dream aren’t done growing yet though! She has her mobile units, her kiosk at Noonan’s and now, she’s adding another layer to her Shaved Ice Empire. Opening very soon, once again, is the historic Sweden Cream in Lindenwald! While Jodi will be holding down the fort at her kiosk, happily serving her friends on the West Side. Her dedicated staff will be serving up iconic Dixie Burgers, delicious onion rings, golden corn dogs, as well as a variety of other tasty treats. They’ll also have soft serve ice cream, shakes, sundaes and of course…Shaved Ice!!! 

Growing a business is never easy. It takes hard-work, dedication and a commitment to work hard, even when no one is looking. You have to give and give and then give some more of yourself, just to get your dream off the ground. Then you have to be flexible and be willing to make adjustments. You have to trust the process over and over again, at every single turn. All skills and qualities that for the last 20 years, Jodi has leaned into and refined as a military spouse. But she isn’t hard edges or aggressive boldness. She works and lives her life with a quiet confidence that’s all her own. She’s authentically kind-hearted, she cares about her customers, and she’s taken what was a sweet tradition between her and her husband and she’s generously shared it with Hamilton and beyond.  

People like Jodi and Brian Benge are a treasure not only to the city of Hamilton but to our country as well. It’s often said that freedom isn’t free…and that’s truer than most of us can probably even fathom. It’s been paid for by service men and women who have done what few are called to do. Their sacrifice is what genuinely keeps us the land of the free and the home of the brave. That’s not just a saying…its reality. But that freedom we so lackadaisically enjoy at times also comes with another price tag. A price tag that’s paid for by the families and loved ones of those who serve in our great military. So, this summer when you’re looking for something to do, or you need a sweet treat, or maybe you find yourself looking to start a tradition with someone you love…stop in to Tropicool or Sweden Creme and show Jodi just how much you appreciate her and Brian and the life of service they’ve so generously lived.  

Lastly…I recommend The Barbie or the Silver Fox with Sno Creme. You won’t be disappointed! 


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