When the world gives you lemons, make a stand

Lemonade stands suffered early in the pandemic, but they are back in full force this summer in both cities and suburbs across America, raising funds and creating fun. (Photo: NYTimes)
When Laura Kurtz staged lemonade stands as a child in Raleigh, North Carolina, they were simple affairs.اضافة اعلان

“We would bring out the folding card table and chairs and pop them at the end of the driveway,” said Kurtz, who is now 34 and a management consultant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “The lemonade would come from concentrate.”

Fast forward to Memorial Day 2022, when she and her four-year-old daughter, Penny, set up a lemonade stand in front of their home.

The idea started at a store. “If you impulse purchase a set of lemon-shaped napkins from T.J. Maxx, then naturally you have to build an elaborate lemonade stand,” she said.

Using crates and other supplies, Kurtz built a stand, complete with a fabric white-and-yellow-striped awning and shelves to display a bowl of fake lemons and decorative straws. She also made lemon garlands and an array of signs, and tied pink ribbons to the top for “pops of color”.

The morning of the event, Kurtz and Penny squeezed lemons and added sugar, water, and ice, which her daughter later sold for $1 a glass. “My dad was appalled by the price. He said it was too much money,” Penny said. “I was like, ‘Dad, it’s freshly squeezed.’”

Penny made $13 over two hours. “I think that might have covered the price of lemons, but that wasn’t the point,” Kurtz said. “The point was to have fun.”

Lemonade stands have long been part of the quintessential American experience. A New York Times article from July 1880 describes them popping up around New York City: “This cheap lemonade business has come very much to the front in New York within the last year or two,” it said. “Before if a thirsty soul wanted a glass of lemonade, on a hot day, he had to go into some bar-room and pay 15 cents for it. Now, at any one of these lemonade stands — and scores of them have been established — a customer can have a glass of ice-cold lemonade made before his eyes for five cents.”

Children eventually took over the trade, and for at least a few generations, parents have seen them as ways for their children to learn entrepreneurial skills while having fun.

Lemonade stands suffered early in the pandemic. Social distancing rules made them all but impossible. Now they are back in full force in cities and suburbs across America. While some families still use concentrate and card tables, others have become more ambitious: making DIY stands, buying special wardrobes for the occasion, advertising on social media, and offering more upscale options (organic elderflower lemonade, anyone?). Additionally, many vendors are opting to donate their proceeds to charity.

Michael York, a Marine Corps veteran in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and his daughter, Aria, did not want to settle for a card table. “We spent one day building a lemonade stand ourselves,” said Aria, who is 8. “We found wood down the street and decorated it. We used sparky black, blue, green and yellow paint to make a sign.”

“It was so fun to make,” she added.

Even after the pandemic, York, 36, has appreciated how bonding projects like this are for his family. “I kind of go overboard with everything we do with the kids,” he said (he and his wife also have a 4-year-old daughter).

It was also important to him and his daughter that all the money go to a good cause: They raised $280 for Home Base, an organization that provides funds and clinical care to veterans and their families. (“That felt good,” Aria said.)

And unlike their parents, children now have access to technology to help bolster profits.

For Carrie Weprin in the Boerum Hill neighborhood in the New York borough of Brooklyn, accepting payments through Venmo from people who did not have cash was a game-changer.

And Weprin found that her children, Elijah, 5, and Naomi, 3, were tenacious salespeople: “Anytime somebody walked by and didn’t stop, they were very vocal about it,” said Weprin, 36, a documentary filmmaker. They “had no shame.” In the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the family donated their proceeds to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for gun control.

Children used to put up a lemonade stand and hope people saw it. Now they and their parents can promote stands through social media and text messaging.

“We used Facebook and Instagram to advertise, and a lot of people came,” York said. “It felt like a special, one-day thing.”

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