Popular Shave Ice Shop Reopens in Illinois

Polynesian Breeze reopened earlier this month, aims to celebrate Polynesian culture

click to enlarge The Purple Hibiscus is one of Polynesian Breeze's most popular shave ice treats. - Courtesy Michele Goldsmith
Courtesy Michele Goldsmith
The Purple Hibiscus is one of Polynesian Breeze's most popular shave ice treats.

Polynesian Breeze Shave Ice (5620 Old Collinsville Road, Fairview Heights, Illinois; 618-691-1485) shuttered temporarily in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, trying to survive the uncertainty the virus brought to many businesses, and remained closed in 2021. But, on a sunny June day this summer, lines formed outside husband-and-wife duo Michele Goldsmith and William Fanene's new shave ice shop location as they opened their windows for the first time in two years.

Fanene says the first couple of weeks open at their new Fairview Heights location was similar to when the shop would host special events; the first weekend made more money over those two days than a week at the original Collinsville store. Both Goldsmith and Fanene credit the fan base they had built for their success.

“It was kind of a nice break, and it almost kind of got comfortable to the point where it's like, well, maybe we're done, maybe we don't need to open back up,” Goldsmith says. “But really our fans continued messaging us and reaching out to us throughout the whole pandemic and then the next year, like ‘We miss you guys so much.’ So it was really a tribute to them because without them, we don't really have the business anyway. So the fact that they made it so special and made us feel very missed and welcome, it helped a lot.”

The fans keep coming, and now the business has put out their sign to let the rest of the world know they are there — which they hadn't done before because they were nervous about the traffic overwhelming the business. Goldsmith and Fanene had made the decision to not hire additional staff beyond themselves and their family members, and Polynesian Breeze operates on limited hours. Both Goldsmith and Fanene have commitments outside of the shave ice shop — Goldsmith is in nursing school, and Fanene teaches the Samoan language online.

Fanene also runs a popular TikTok account — he offers lessons on Samoan but also highlights Polynesian Breeze and other aspects of his life. He’s amassed over 100,000 followers and 2 million likes on his page. In one video, he shows the customers on opening day and the process of making the shave ice concoctions. That video drove some traffic to their store; customers came out from Peoria, Illinois, and Wentzville, Missouri ,just to sample some of the treats the shop offers. Goldsmith thinks that TikTok plays a factor in the traffic Polynesian Breeze has experienced so far, explaining that people love to see the people they follow on the app in real life.

“I don't know, maybe they're thinking they're gonna meet The Rock or something because The Rock just started following him not long ago,” she jokes.

Another big part of the reopening had to do with honoring Polynesian culture, the owners say. They want to showcase the culture and help people learn about Polynesia. The shop offers tastes of Polynesian culture but also can give you a bite of the Midwest.

One of Polynesian Breeze's best sellers is the Purple Hibiscus — a shave ice treat made up of a vanilla ice cream base topped with shave ice, Midwest-favorite Tiger’s Blood and Blue Raspberry flavoring, mochi, sweet condensed milk that the business calls a snow cap and strawberries.

With the sign up and business back in swing, Polynesian Breeze is prepping for the rest of the summer and fall. Polynesian Breeze will be open until October. Goldsmith says the shop may try to host special events again, but they need to understand what crowds look like and get settled in first, so stay tuned. The husband and wife duo is thankful for the success they’ve had and the future they’re planning.

“It is just amazing to have something as beautiful as people showing up every single day to your business and making it special,” Goldsmith says. “Just because they love it so much.”

Polynesian Breeze is open Fridays through Mondays from 2:30 to 9 p.m. in the Centerfield Golf Park parking lot in Fairview Heights, Illinois.