A cool treat on a hot, humid Texas day

By Emmalee Jorgenson
Corsicana Texas Daily Sun
June 23, 2006

That first blast of cold air through the window of a snow cone stand could be argued as the best part of summer vacation.

On 90- and 100-degree days when simply stepping out of the car begins the signal to sweat, that 65 degrees of ice-cold air coming out of the snow ball stand makes standing in line for a little piece of snow ball heaven much more enjoyable and always worth the wait.

For Shemaki Robinson, who prefers the banana-flavor, it’s a daily experience she can’t miss in the summer.

“I just love them. I have to have one everyday,” she said. “If I don’t come, someone will come for me.”

Tucked into his tiny 9 1/2 by 17 1/2 foot stand, surrounded by gallons and bottles of sugary syrup and ice, lots and lots of ice, Spencer Richardson, 29, said his job has its advantages.

“I like it that everyone knows me from the SnoBiz stand and the kids are always excited about the stand’s opening,” says Spencer about being the SnoBiz man. “I’ve gotten a lot of friends out of this business.”

For those who don’t know the difference, a snow cone has crunchy ice that doesn’t absorb syrup, while a snow ball has shaven ice that soaks up the flavor, Richardson explained. Also, a snow cone can be made ahead of time and a snow ball is usually made while the customer waits.

SnoBiz in Corsicana has been open for 18 years, and Richardson has three stores — Corsicana, Ennis and Waxahachie, all run by family members.

The most popular flavor, of the 150 regular flavor options and a few sugar-free options on the menu, is strawberry, Richardson said. However, blue coconut was a popular favorite on Thursday afternoon. Ice cream and cream are also available as snow ball add-ins.

“I like them, and they cool me off when it’s hot,” said Jamie Burkes, a Sno Biz customer who ordered her coconut favorite. Burkes said she buys a snow ball about twice a week and waits all year for the treat.

Snow-based desserts have been around since “the Roman Empire from 27 B.C. to A.D. 395,” according to the Web site Snow-Cones.com, when workers hauled snow from the tops of mountains and sweetened it with syrup. Modern snow cones became easy and popular after a device, the Ice Block Shaver, was patented in the early 1930s in New Orleans.

West of SnoBiz on Seventh, Betty Nichols runs another sweet refuge, the SnoKones stand. SnoKones has been open 11 years and boasts over a hundred flavor options as well. Nichols has sugar-free syrups for diabetics or people on a diet, and has a new popular item on her menu, the frozen pickle.

“The kids just love the frozen pickles,” said Nichols. “I like talking to people, and I feel like I have a great big family.

“Sometimes customers come more for the conversation than the snow cones.”

Nichols says that a big advantage of her snow ball stand compared to others is that she has a drive-through window which helps business when people “don’t like to get out of their cars because it’s really hot.”

Other than that, she said there has to be a drastic drop in temperature for it to effect her business.

Like many businesses, the Sno Biz has its hot and cold rush times.

“The busiest day of the week is Sunday,” Spencer said, “because almost everyone’s off work on Sunday.”

Rush hours at the stand are from 3 to 5 p.m., and from 6 to 9 p.m., Richardson said.

If there’s a downside to this sweet business, it’s that almost all his year’s work has to be crammed into six months, when the stand is opened, typically starting in March and closing in September.

“The fact that I have to work seven days a week is a lot of time away from my family,” Richardson said.

Surprisingly enough, Spencer says he doesn’t go home sticky every day. He says his clothes and shoes are often sticky, but his hands are always in water, so they remain clean.

After years in the business, neither of these professional purveyors of palatable paradise indulge in their own products. Richardson said he eats about one a week, while Nichols said she prefers plain ice.

2009© Corsicana TX Daily Sun