GREENVILLE—Family-owned sweet tea vendor, Jumbo Iced Tea, has been in the fair business for a little over 40 years.
“My dad, started it when my mom was pregnant with me,” owner Katie Mae Vogrin said.
At the time, her father, Kevin Mabry, who booked the open pavilion entertainment at the Ohio State Fair, noticed the only beverage choices at the state fair were soda and lemonade.
“My dad always drank iced tea,” she said. “That’s what Grandma Janice always drank. My parents love Jesus and built our family and their business on faith and always looked to God for direction. Those seeds they planted, and God’s truth have become rooted in me. My husband Jeff and I are continuing that culture in our own family and at Jumbo. Our core values are: ‘Faith, Family, Friendship and Good Tea,’ while trying to make the world a better place one customer and employee at a time.”
Prior to the family business, Vogrin worked in the creative department at SESAC, a performance-rights organization in Nashville. In her position, she supported SESAC-affiliated songwriters and publishers. As a gifted songwriter supporter, Vogrin was responsible for the recruitment, nurturing and signing of songwriters and publishers and the retention of existing SESAC affiliates.
Vogrin said growing up on the fairgrounds around music influenced her career aspirations.
“My dad was doing the entertainment, so I was always around that,” she said. “My first concert was the Beach Boys. My Mom Nancy made me a little pink poodle skirt, and I had pink little saddle shoes, and I was in the front row. I just always loved being outside and being with music.”
After the birth of her daughter Daisy Mae, Vogrin left her job in the music industry. Eventually, she and her husband Jeff bought Jumbo Iced Tea from her parents in 2019, just before the pandemic.
“We went from a healthy income, to zero,” she said. “I learned what WIC was, what SNAP was, what Medicaid was.”
In 2020, Just weeks after the birth of her son Jeffrey Jr., Vogrin started having bad headaches. A CT-scan later showed that she had a pleomorphic adenoma tumor in her neck, sitting on the backside of her facial nerve. Her doctors told her there was a 50% chance it was cancerous.
“They got in there and it was like a six hour surgery,” she said. “I prayed. I mean, I dug into my Bible, ‘Lord, I don’t think you created me to be a mom of a three week old, a two year old and a four year old, to have cancer.’ As clear as day, I heard him say, ‘Katie, I sent you a son, just like I sent my son, to save you.’”
Due to the birth of her son just weeks before, her hormones were off balance, which caused the bad headaches. Doctors told Vogrin the tumor could have sat for 30 years without her ever knowing and if it was not cancerous now, it would eventually turn to cancer and spread quickly.
The day she got out of surgery, while resting in her hospital bed, she was able to see out her window at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, where, if it weren’t for the pandemic, she would’ve been with her Jumbo Iced Tea family.
“It would’ve been August 5,” she said. “Right in the middle of our busiest time. August 6 is the week we always have all 12 trailers out, four different events, it’s nuts. I just thought, ‘How would we have done that if we had a newborn and this?’ There’s always a plan, we just don’t see it at the time. My tumor was benign, and God sustained us through it all.”
Currently, Jumbo Iced Tea has 12 trailers and serves 22 events in the Mid-Ohio Region. Recently, Vogrin was at The Great Darke County Fair, where she brought four trailers out.
In the future, Vogrin said they’ve discussed the idea of franchising, selling in grocery stores and serving events in southern states.
“My husband is the Director of Operations, I couldn’t do this without him,” she said. “His hard work and leadership allow me to be a mom first, and business owner second.”
“We hope to do the Southern route,” she added. “What we were hoping to do is winter back in Nashville, and then just do summer here and maybe extend our season a little bit.”
After living in Nashville for almost 20 years, Vogrin, and her family of five now live in Marysville, Ohio, where she was raised.
“It’s a close knit farming community,” she said. “Growing up, I was active in 4-H and FFA. Jumbo is a big supporter of both organizations, and they are their most loyal and favorite customers. There is something about farming families, they are rooted and many times they share the same core values that we do at Jumbo, it makes me feel connected to them.”
Jumbo Iced Tea will serve the Hardin County Fair in Kenton, Ohio from Sept. 6, to Sept. 11. Their last event of the season is the Delaware County Fair from Sept. 17 to Sept. 24. For more information go to the Jumbo Iced Tea Facebook Page.