Cool treat popular on hot days

Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2004

AMARILLO, Texas Even arid Texas towns get snow in the summer. Really.

Well, snowballs, snoballs and snow cones.

Whatever you call it, Amarillo, for instance, has almost 40 vendors which testifies to the popularity of the summer syrup-over-chipped-ice confections.

"Amarillo is a little hot spot for snowballs. You've got a lot of snowballs up there," said Bubby Wendling, chief executive officer of Southern Snow Mfg. Inc., a supplier of equipment and ingredients.

"I consider that sort of a little stronghold. I think I sell more stuff there than I do in Dallas or Houston."

In the old snow cone machines, ice cubes are crushed, yielding ice pellets. The syrup goes right to the bottom, Wendling said.

"For years, we've been trying to separate the snowball from the snow cone," he said. "What makes a snowball is shaved ice. It can be just like snow."

That's done by holding a block of ice firmly and shaving the ice. With machines, the difference is using powered blades to shave the block but the distinction is still the cubes, he said.

The fluffy ice "captures the syrup" at the top, he said.

The investment in the business from Southern Snow can vary, from a $2,200 package for equipment and supplies, but no site, to $13,000 trailer ready to go, he said.

Bruce Dodson, whose stand offers a New Orleans-type snow ball, said he got into the business for about $5,000, including $1,900 for the machine, he said.

He also said he thickens the syrup, adding real cream and an additional 10 pounds of sugar to the recipe.

"The trick is the temperature you shave it at," Dodson said. "Sharp blades make all the difference in the world."

His machine uses block ice at about 10 to 15 degrees, the temperature Wendling said is optimal for fluffy ice.

Bobby Tunnel, who runs Sugar Shack stands, said he uses the Southern Snow machines and the Southern Snow syrup products. He likes the shaved ice and a fluffy product.

"I like the ice to shave off more snowy, but I want the snow that packs," he said.

None of the snowball business owners would say how profitable their businesses are. Wendling said he has heard ranges of $150 to $800 per day.

"There's not nearly as much money made in the snowball business as people think," Dodson said.

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