Having a Ball
Freezing out the recession
by Diana Beechener
The recipe is simple: A little crushed ice, a few squirts of syrup and a spoon. Yet cars squeeze into gravel lots alongside clapboard shacks to line up for summer’s most satisfying treat. Call it a snoball or a snocone only two we visited don’t drop the W terminology typically depends on the stand. The ice can be crushed or shaved, and more adventurous flavor seekers can add a squirt of cream, marshmallow or chocolate to their cup.
The icy dessert, with a kaleidoscope of tastes and colors yours for the mixing, offers one of the simplest tastes of summer sweetness to commuters, families and local newspaper reporters. Each order reveals a snippet of the snacker’s personality: Want your flavors mixed: You’re a little Type A. Order cotton candy: Your parents are probably waiting in the car. Order an egg custard: Vendors will ask you how life in Baltimore is going.
With gas prices hovering around $4, BGE bills rivaling the gross national product of small nations and many Marylanders retrenching in the face of a recession, a $1.25 cup of flavored ice is a practical and effective way to keep cool without breaking the bank though you may have to burn up some gas looking for yours.
’Dena’s Oldest Snoball
The snoball makers of yore had to hand-shave their treats from a block of ice to fill a cup. The palm-sized shaver consists of a blade and a hollow chamber. Shaving required strength and speed; if the heat of your hand on the metal tool didn’t melt the ice, the heat of the day would.
Neil Mason keeps an antique hand-shaver as a backup at his Supercool Snowball stand.
Ominously perched above the flavor syrups at Neil Mason’s Supercool Snowballs is an antique snoball maker, a relic from his wife’s family.
“It’s our backup,” Mason jokes, “in case one of the girls breaks the machine.” Mason and a fleet of high school girls run the Pasadena stand seven days a week, selling Papa John’s produce and flowers alongside snoballs.
“I never thought I’d be selling snoballs,” Mason says, “but I’ve done everything else.” Mason is the third owner of the stand, which has stood for three-quarters of a century on the footprint of an old gas station.
Neil Mason’s frozen journey started with a Good Humor truck. His route took him by Anne’s, the local snoball stand. When Mason spotted an auction ad in The Gazette, he placed a bid and won a small seasonal business.
Anne stayed on to sell snoballs, but Mason revamped the clapboard shack.
Mason took over when Anne retired, adding a produce stand and a small nursery to the renamed Supercool Snowballs. The seasonal work from the first of May to the end of October suited him. During the off-season, he fights ice and snow with his Pasadena Discount Heating Oil Company. To maximize his summer income, Mason rents space to a pit beef stand. Now hungry diners wash down their pulled pork sandwiches with snoball desserts.
“It gets hectic,” Mason admits, “but we do a good business. We catch a lot of people heading to Fort Smallwood Park.”
With all his ice expertise, Mason is a proponent of crushed ice, instead of shaved. “Shaved ice melts too fast,” he explains.
Among his dozens of flavors, Mason points to a clear winner among Pasadena snoballers: Egg custard. “The kids love cotton candy and bubble gum, but egg custard is our No. 1.”
Supercool Snowballs doesn’t stop with the standard flavors. Mason experiments with mixes for the next new flavor. This summer, ask him for a banana daiquiri for a taste of the tropical drink without the alcohol.
Supercool SnoBalls; Open seven days noon-9pm; 8937 Fort Smallwood Rd., Pasadena: 410-360-8499.
Terry Kosmicki walked away from a career in banking after a heart attack and opened a snoball stand, Koz’s Koolers.
Eight years ago, banker Terry Kosmicki survived a heart attack.
“Coming out of that hospital, it was like I had a new lease on life. I didn’t want to be a banker anymore. Money was no longer number one,” says Kosmicki.
This new lease licensed Kosmicki to open Koz’s Koolers, a snoball stand in Millersville. Wedged between a liquor store and a Taco Bell, Koz’s remains busy from March to September.
“I love meeting all the people that come out for snoballs,” Kosmicki says.
Koz’s used to have each flavor represent a different car, but after seven years Kosmicki decided that it was time for a change. Maybe he ran out of cars to name his 60-plus flavors, including unusual ones like strawberry cheesecake and birthday cake (a mix of egg custard and vanilla). The Verizon named in honor of the flavor choices “two Verizon guys got every day last summer” mixes blackberry and black cherry.
“Egg custard sells two to one,” Kosmicki says. “And cherry is definitely next popular.”
Koz’s Koolers: Open seven days 1-9pm; 8101 Veterans Hwy., Millersville: 410-245-1086.
Sno Biz Shaved Ice
Where Annapolitans Carry on Maryland Tradition
Maryland is the snowball capital of the world, claims Jerae Louck, owner of Sno Biz, a Hawaiian shaved ice stand in Annapolis.
Louck carries 17 flavors, with the standard cherry, lemon, cotton candy and rainbow choices; but egg custard wins as a customer favorite.
“I have been coming here about once a week for years,” says Jay Jacobs, left, of Sno Biz, owned and operated by Jerae Louck, in window.
“Egg custard is pretty much a Maryland tradition,” says Louck, “but we do a lot of chocolate. We have what we call our Chocoholic: layers of chocolate, vanilla, marshmallow and vanilla creme.”
“Marshmallow topping is a Baltimore tradition,” Louck says. “It’s like having crabs with Old Bay.”
“This is my spot,” says Jay Jacobs, an Annapolis businesswoman. “I have been coming here about once a week for years.”
Before leaving, Jacobs gets checked off in the frequent buyer book buy five, get one free.
Louck worked as a vendor at Six Flags and the Chesapeake Beach Water Park before starting her own business seven years ago.
“I chose snow cones because there were no others in the city of Annapolis,” she says. “I saw this location, and I knew there were a lot of people in the community. It was easy on and off [Forest Drive and Bay Ridge], and there was ample parking.”
Rent is reasonable, and city and county permits weren’t hard to get. Business is good sometimes 500 customers a day.
“Snowball businesses usually die out after a year or two,” says Louck, “but we’ve been really steady.”
Business is so good, in fact, that Louck plans to expand, adding stands on West Street in Annapolis and in Edgewater next year. Many Annapolitans aren’t from the Baltimore, Glen Burnie or Pasadena areas where snowballs are standard, Louck says. She hopes to introduce newcomers to this Maryland tradition and bring back memories for others. Egg custard with marshmallow topping, anyone?
Sno Biz: Open seven days 1-9pm April to October; Hillsmere Dr. opposite Quiet Waters Park, Annapolis.
Dotty Holcomb Doherty
At 10 years old, Snow Ball at Riva Market is a summer landmark.
Riva Food Market’s Snow Ball
“Business is better the hotter it gets,” says Bryan Jackson, owner of Riva Food Market’s Snow Ball.
The market, open for 37 years, is a landmark. Jackson’s Snow Ball, at 10, is a landmark of summer. “It’s nice to do in summer,” Jackson says. “When it’s hot, people love to come get snowballs.”
Jackson’s Snow Ball isn’t making him rich, even with little competition. Many stands, he says, have shut down in recent summers after Anne Arundel County discovered that many were operating without permits. (His food market’s permits cover his snow balls.)
But it’s keeping Riva cool with three-dozen flavors to sweeten shaved ice. The reigning favorites include egg custard, cotton candy, bubble gum and cherry. All the flavors are made locally, in Baltimore, by Koldkiss.
Prices are affordable, ranging from $1.25 for a small to $2.75 for a large.
Riva Food Market Snow Ball: Open seven days 2:30-7pm; 3111 Riva Rd., Riva: 410-956-2454
Katie Neighoff opened her Sno Shak stand in Galesville earlier this summer. Her brother works with her.
Galesville’s Coolest Snack Shack
“I’ve seen other businesses, heard of other people doing it, being successful with it, so, I thought why not,” says Katie Neighoff, the 18-year-old owner of the Sno Shak. Neighoff opened her eight-by-seven-foot Galesville snoball business June 26.
The Sno Shak attracts people from all ages. “A lot of people … especially younger kids,” Neighoff said.
Allison, a seven-year-old, visits Sno Shak every day. Blueberry is her favorite flavor. Each visit, she puts a tip in the college fund bucket to finance Katie and her brother’s college tuition.
People take the five-minute walk from the West River pool to the Sno Shak to select from 25 flavors, including sugar free varities.
Katie hasn’t thought much about what business will be like come winter.
“This is a trial business,” she says. “We’re gonna see how it goes.”
Sno Shak with hours etc tk
Grace’s Shaved Ice
Calvert County’s Brain Freeze
David Grace creates icy concoctions out of a portable concession stand set up in his Prince Frederick front lawn. He’s been there on and off since 2002.
David Grace has been serving shaved Hawaiian ice in Prince Frederick since 2002. His ice is so fine, he says, it will blow through a window screen.
“I noticed that no one was doing snowballs in Calvert County,” he says. “I chose an off-the-beaten-path location because people driving 70 miles per hour down Route 4, they won’t even stop for a case of beer,” he says.
Grace swears by his Hatsuyuki Cuber to make the best sno-balls around. Hatsuyuki is Japanese for freshly fallen snow. The Hatsuyuki shaves ice so fine that it will blow through a window screen. Grace says he’s tested it.
In Texas and Louisana, Pickle juice is the No. 1 requested flavor. Closer to home, according to Grace, Dr. Pepper is the hardest and most expensive to duplicate. But cherry is his No. 1 request. Unless you’re from Baltimore; then it’s egg custard. Grace begins with 80 flavors, topping around 90 before summer ends. He adds a flavor or two a week after July 15.
Grace hasn’t raised his prices in six years. His icy treats sell at $1.50 for small and $2 for large. Add 50 cents for marshmallow or chocolate toppings.
Grace pays $152 a year for his license. The Health Department gets $150, its minimal charge because Grace works with non-perishable items.
While start-up and his trailer cost a bit, Grace is doing okay. As I savored my cherry cone, my son said he’d never seen the syrup stick so well to the ice as on his blue raspberry cone. The virtue is in the Hatsuyuki.
Grace won’t reveal how many pounds of ice he uses each week.
“That would be like a bookie giving out his numbers,” he says. “But I can tell you that I fill up a cart with ice at Giant every morning.”
Grace’s Shaved Ice; Open seven days 3 or 4pm until 7pm or dark; 85 Main St., Prince Frederick
Angela Bishop has been selling cool treats from a stand in the front yard of her Lusby home since 1950.
Calvert County’s First Lady of Snoballs
Angela Bishop has owned and operated her stand a permanent structure in her Lusby front yard since 1950. Step inside the shed, which resembles a miniature house, and you’ll find a kitchen complete with table, chairs and a ceiling fan.
Bishop wears her housecoat to work, selling cones as well as floats, ice tea and milk shakes.
“You’ll be lucky to get 50 words out of me. I’m too busy to talk with newspaper people,” she says.
Customers call Bishop ma’am and patiently wait for their orders to be filled. Then, they gather in resin chairs on Bishop’s lawn to enjoy their frozen treats.
“They do what they please,” Bishop says of the chit-chatting customers lounging in the shady lawn. “I have great customers of all ages who come from everywhere.”
She offers three sizes: small at 90 cents, medium at $1.25 and large at $1.45. An ice cream topping brings the price up to $1, $1.50 or $1.75. Add chocolate for 15 cents.
She sticks to the old school way of coning, giving her ice has a coarser texture.
Bishop says she offers a lot of flavors, but she won’t say how many. Judging by the repeat customers slurping sno-cones, she’s doing well.
Bishop lives her life day-to-day, so she may or may not be selling snow-cones next year.
Bishop’s Stand: Open seven days 9am-???;
off Rousby Hall Rd., Lusby.