The Snow Shack
Residents and tourists of St. Simons Island, Georgia, might be familiar with a concession stand called The Snow Shack. A snowcone business owned and operated by couple Charlie and Melissa Turner (pictured with their two kids on the right), the “shack” can be found at the East Beach concession stand. The Turners specialize in organic syrups in flavors like raspberry lemonade and Georgia peach, and would like to take their snowcone show on the road year-round. A Kickstarter campaign was unfortunately unsuccessful in raising funds for a true shack on wheels, but the Turners aren’t giving up. Visit them at St. Simons Island and contact them through Kickstarter to help support their snowcone dream.
Deep South intern Jake Cole interviewed Melissa about her snowcones and her plans to bring them further South as part of our summer focus on some of the South’s best snowball stands. Submit your favorite stand to our Snowball Photo Contest for the chance to win Cypress Tees’ “Cajun Sneaux” t-shirt and a few additional prizes in the works.
Why did you decide to start selling snowcones?
My husband, Charlie, is a pastor. We left a comfortable, well-paying church job to join a much smaller church in downtown Brunswick, Georgia. This move left us needing income for our family. We have always wanted to open a food business, and we figured this was the perfect opportunity. We wanted to sell something that would attract local beach goers and tourists of all ages. We knew there were several snowcone stands on St. Simons Island, but none that offered organic, chemical-free syrups. Organic food is important to us, and we are always looking for natural snack options for our three children. We figured real-fruit snowcones would be a hit at the beach!
How long have you been in business?
Our grand opening was early May 2011.
How did you learn to make syrups, and what was your reason for making your own?
We wanted to make our own syrups so we could know for sure what was going into our product. We wouldn’t feel right about selling something with a long list of ingredients that you can’t pronounce. We bought lots of different fruits and started creating recipes. There were a few REALLY bad ones that had to be thrown away. It was a trial and error process. I wrote down everything in a little notebook until I found a system that worked.
What sort of flavors do you offer?
We have six flavors on the menu: pineapple, lime, green tea pear, grape, raspberry lemonade and Georgia peach. We usually have a weekend special, like orange or pina colada. Customers can also get a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle of their snowcone for 50 cents extra. We call it snow cream, and it is so good.
How did plans for a mobile shack come about?
Our original plan was to build a “shack.” We were in the process of looking for a trailer and gathering materials when we heard that the East Beach concession stand was up for auction. The St. Simons Coast Guard station parking lot at East Beach is the busiest parking lot on the island, and the concession stand there is a great place for business. We had just enough money to either finish the shack or put in a bid for the concession stand. We took a chance on the concession stand and got it. It has really paid off. We are gaining popularity and working out all of our new business “kinks” before we own our own building.
We only have the concession stand until September, but we want to keep the business going year-round (since it never gets too cold for snowcones in South Georgia). Our goal is to raise enough funds to finish the trailer by the end of the summer and sell from various locations during the winter months. Since we used all of our personal savings to start up business at the concession stand, we need a little help finishing the trailer. We knew Kickstarter would be a great way to make our business visible and keep people informed about our progress.
Where do you plan to locate the mobile shack?
We hope to expand our base of operations. If we get the trailer finished, we hope to sell from it next summer and also get the concession stand again. Our goal is two locations next summer, then maybe in a few years we could open another shack. I would love to open one in South Mississippi where my family lives. We also kick around the idea of selling our syrups by the bottle to other snowcone businesses.
What’s your main customer base?
Our customers are mostly beach goers and families with small children or teenagers. Teenagers love us. We’re building a good group of “regulars.”