Old School Shave Ice bus brings an authentic Hawaiian treat

The Old School Shave Ice bus.

This summer, keep an eye out for the magic school bus tricked out with peace signs and plenty of flower power: the Old School Shave Ice bus. Owned by longtime Encinitas resident Jeff Anshel and his partner Ginnie Mathews, the Woodstock-themed bus serves up authentic Hawaiian shave ice, tasty treat combinations with a hint of rock ‘n’ roll like Kiwi Hendrix and Sergeant Peppermint, a blend of cotton candy, candy cane and cherry.

Anshel, an optometrist at E Street Eyes in Encinitas likes to say that with his new adventure, he has gone “from eyes to ice.”

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A happy Old School Shave Ice customer. Courtesy

“There is a difference between what most of us thought was just an ordinary snow cone and true Hawaiian shave ice,” Anshel said. “Snow cones are made by simply crushing ordinary ice cubes. The shave ice is a very fine and fluffy ice that looks more like snow and the ice holds the flavor syrup better.”

The couple got the idea to bring a bit of Hawaii to the mainland from their regular visits to Kauai where Anshel’s son who has lived for several years. They looked into it and didn’t find much true Hawaiian shaved ice offerings on the market in San Diego.

“We tossed around the idea and Ginnie made it very clear that if we were going to do it, she wanted to do it right,” Anshel said, which meant no artificial dyes, no corn syrup and maintaining a sense of environmental responsibility by using eco-friendly materials such as compostable cups, recycled paper napkins, cornstarch spoons and bamboo paper straws. “She wanted to do it old school.”

Building on that old school theme, Anshel came up with the idea of using an old school bus. He found a 20-foot-long, vintage 1982 school bus from a Northern California high school district and submitted the winning bid on a government auction site. Friends helped him customize the bus to include on-board freezers that will hold up to 50 blocks of ice and they had it renovated to take it back to the “Woodstock days” to play on that old school nostalgia.

Perhaps the hardest part of the process was jumping through all the hoops required for a food truck, acquiring a license to operate and ensuring that all state, local and health requirements are met.

“It was an adventure,” Anshel said. “We’re excited about it and looking forward to getting it out there more.”

Music from the Woodstock era plays while you wait for your treat and the Woodstock theme was carried on in the names of the custom flavor combos like Grateful Red, Joplin Jubilee, Pink Froid, Three POG Night and Ba-Nah-Nah which pairs peanut butter, chocolate and banana.

“I’m an old hippie so it kind of worked out,” Anshel said.

Guests to the bus can choose between 31 natural and organic flavors, ordering a four-ounce “short board” or the eight-ounce “long board” cup. The offerings they have include pitaya, which is made from dragon fruit and is similar to Açaí in that it has a dose of antioxidants. They also offer the choice of adding a “snow cap”—a creamy, sweet topper of condensed milk.

“It’s a great treat and we make ‘em pretty big too,” Anshel said of their generous servings.

Old School Shave Ice owners Jeff Anshel and Ginnie Mathews. Courtesy

When Old School does catering for private events, they can also offer adult versions like margaritas, daiquiris or a tequila sunrise.

The bus debuted at an MS Society event in Mission Bay in October 2018 and made an appearance at the Encinitas Street Fair in November. “It was 80 degrees that day and we kicked butt, we did great,” Anshel said, adding they have gone on to be included in events with Encinitas Little League and the North Park Art Fest.

As they are a “fairweather business,” it has been a challenge with all of the rain this year but Anshel said they are being patient and looking forward to their first summer.

They will be at the Amanda Post Charity Run on June 1 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at La Costa Canyon High School, the end of the year bash at Paul Ecke School on June 1 from 1-5 p.m., and at Concept Surf Shop for the entire week of June 3 during its summer surf camps, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

When they have been out, Anshel said the response has been great, he loves to see people posing for photos with the colorful bus and enjoying an authentic icy treat.

“It’s really been fun, that’s the good part of it,” Anshel said.

For information about Old School’s availability or locations, visit