As temperatures start to soar,
cool down with your favorite childhood treat.
Written by Zak Hansen
As an engineer and a Desert Storm Marine veteran, making a living off snow cones was a difficult concept for Keith Placencio to wrap his head around. “I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur and I’ve tried things here and there, until I finally realized where I was missing the boat. I wasn’t focusing on what’s truly important—being able to do something you enjoy, spending time with family, laughing, and having fun. We started looking into franchises and this snow cone franchise kept popping up, but I kept thinking, ‘Snow cones? Come on. Being a math and sciences guy, it was hard to grasp how I could make a living off snow cones.”
Keith couldn’t help but be intrigued by the Kona Ice business model, which focuses on giving back to the community. He started calling around to franchise owners in places like Ohio and Michigan and found that, even in places much colder than Southern New Mexico, they were not only doing well, but enjoying their life. He says it took him nearly two years to pull the trigger, but he couldn’t be happier that he did. “My job is fun!” he says happily. “I get to be around smiling happy people. My family helps me out, so I’m spending time with them. I get to be part of their celebrations and see how much fun everyone has with our product. Plus, we’re writing checks left and right to the community.”
The concept is simple: the Kona Ice truck shows up to fundraising events for schools or sports teams, everyone lines up to purchase their shaved ice treat, and when it’s all said and done, the school or team gets a cut of the profits. In a little over a year, Keith’s truck has helped raise $30,000 for the community.
“It’s a unique business model; the product is healthy which is one of the reasons the schools allow us at their events, the trucks and uniforms are super clean, and it’s a beautiful product,” he says, adding that one of the best parts is that customers get to pour their own syrup and come up with whatever colorful concoction their hearts desire.
Keith’s personal favorite is their Ninja Cherry flavor, or a half-and-half mix of Ninja Cherry and Monster Mango. But he says every kid loves making rainbows and he invites them to take photos of their creations and post them on their Facebook page. “They’ve made some really neat and colorful ones,” he notes. “I really like our product because the syrups aren’t corn syrupy and the flavors actually taste like the flavor it’s supposed. Snow cones are just such a good time. We give out leis and turn on the Hawaiian music and every starts smiling. I couldn’t be happier. And my nine-year-old daughter was never so happy to tell people her dad is an engineer as she is to say we own the Kona Ice truck!”
History of the Cone
Snow cones as we know them first hit big in the United States in the 1920s, and we have the Industrial Revolution to thank for their creation. At the 1919 State Fair of Texas, East Dallas native Samuel Bert was the first to sell the cold, sweet treats. They were a hit, and the very next year, Samuel patented an ice-crushing machine of his very own invention.
By 1950, “King Sammie,” as he was known was peddling a cool million cones each year, and continued working his stand at the State Fair of Texas 65 years in all, until his death in 1984. Now, nearly 100 years since their invention, snow cones are a staple of summertime snacking. Regional variations exist—Baltimore, for instance, serves them with a dollop of marshmallow creme, a popular concession from the days when ice trucks, making their way from New York to the American South, would hand out shavings to eager kids along the way. Similar treats are served almost the world over. –Zak Hansen
Try It At Home!
Use fresh or frozen berries for these tasty summer refreshers
2 cups ice
1 cup strawberries
1 cup kiwi
1 cup blueberries
1 cup mango
1 cup lemon
2 tablespoons sugar per fruit
1. Combine one fruit of your choice with two tablespoons sugar in a saucepan. Simmer for 3 minutes or until fruit is soft and sugar is dissolved.
2. Blend mixture in a food processor until consistency of smooth puree. Strain over a bowl to remove seeds. Thin out as necessary with a little juice or water.
3. Use blender or snow cone maker to create fine shaved ice. Scoop into a serving dish and pack tightly.
4. Pour fruit syrup over ice and dig in!
F Y I
Where Else to Find Them!
- Party Animals Entertainment
- Sweet Sno Shave Ice
2500 N. Main St.
- Twins Shave Ice
Parks @ Young Park
- Tropical Sno
Mesilla Valley Mall