Cool treats for a hot summer


Charlie Smith hands Angel Kelly, 11, a shaved ice with marshmallow drizzle at Charlie’s Snow Shack.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 20, 2012 at 11:54 a.m.

During her drive back from work, Dianne Lockard always wondered what an orange trailer was doing tucked in the Walmart parking lot.

Facts

Local refreshments

Coffee Culture
Newberry Road manager Leah Blais said customers are darting for the coffee shop’s July specials list and iced bar. Whether it’s the Stars and Stripes, Hawaiian Delight or Spunky Monkey latte, “they try them all – iced and frozen,” Blais said.
3822 W. Newberry Road and 2020 NW 13th St. Open 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Maude’s Classic Café
Though iced teas aren’t as popular the remainder of the year, Maude’s comes back to them each summer. Manager Layne Wrighton said the store “goes through iced drinks” quickly, especially when it adds herbal iced tea to the summer menu.
101 SE Second Place, Suite 101. Open 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-1 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday.
Volta
Volta offers agua frescas, which translates to “fresh water.” The agua fresca Jamaica — made from dried hibiscus flowers — “has a cranberry, sweet tart flavor,” manager Anthony Rue said. There’s also a cooling cucumber chili lime and watermelon chili agua fresca.
48 SW Second Street. Summer hours: 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
Charlie’s Snow Shack
Local shaved ice business with 24 flavors and four sugar-free options.
Walmart parking lot, 2649 NW 13th St. Open noon-8 p.m. every day. ($2.50 small, $3 medium, $4 large, 50 cents for snowcaps; cash only.)

Facts

Big-chain offerings

Dunkin Donuts
Those in the scorching heat with a sweet tooth can celebrate. Dunkin Coolattas, frozen drinks made with coffee and cream or fruit juice, now include Oreo crumbs in vanilla bean or coffee.
Starbucks
Starbucks reinvented its VIA packets in time for 90-degree heat. The company's coffee-on-the-go packets introduced VIA Refreshers, low-calorie energizers with green coffee extract and real fruit juice. They're available in either Berry Hibiscus or Cool Lime.
McDonald's
The fast-food giant is reaching out to those looking for a chocolatey quick fix. The McCafe Frappe Chocolate Chip, McDonald's latest addition to its cafe menu, is filled with blended ice and chocolate chips.
Burger King
Burger King is appealing to all sweet, sour and interesting taste buds this summer with frozen lemonade (available in strawberry and lemon) and a conglomerate of flavors in the BK Bacon Sundae: vanilla soft-serve, chocolate and caramel sauce with two strips of bacon.
Taco Bell
Taco Bell is offering new flavors in both its frozen drink lines. Try the mango-strawberry, strawberry or frozen strawberry lemonade Fruitista Freezes — frozen drinks topped with fruit. A more sweet-and-sour approach comes in Limeade Sparklers in cherry and classic limeade.

Recently, she decided to approach the 6-by-12-foot trailer with her sons.

Noah, 6, scores a small icy bubble gum-cotton candy-cherry concoction. He brings the foam cup to his mouth and bites into the pink syrup.

"Oh yeah, it's good," he muffled.

The family immediately became fans of Charlie's Snow Shack, a new shaved ice business parked in the Walmart lot at 2649 NW 13th St.

"Now, we'll be back for sure," Lockard said.

Charlie's Snow Shack is the latest endeavor of owner and founder Charlie Smith.

"This is the most fun with a business I've ever had," the 27-year-old said.

He and his mother, Linda, run the shack. It's open every day from noon to 8 p.m.

According to a September report by the consumer market research firm NPD Group, of the top five beverages served in restaurants, three of them are frozen. Atop the pile is iced/frozen/slushie coffee; No. 2 is smoothies and No. 5 is frozen/slushie soft drinks.

The Nation's Restaurant News quotes Bonnie Riggs, an NPD restaurant analyst, as saying: "The beverages growing in popularity provide restaurant consumers with what they're looking for in terms of flavors, taste, thirst quenching, price and less calories."

Besides all that, they're cool.

What sets Charlie's Snow Shack apart from other stands is their finely shaved ice.

"It holds onto the syrup more," said Smith, who creates half the syrups in a certified kitchen.

The Snow Shack offers a small cup for $2.50, medium for $3 and large for $4. An unconventional fan favorite is marshmallow cream, or snowcaps, for 50 cents.

Linda Smith sells homemade orange and blue bracelets as well.

"Every day it's a new thing," she said. "We're growing every day."

Charlie and Linda see about 30 regular customers and sell between 70 and 150 cups a day.

Almost half of the Snow Shack's customers are 30 or older, and include University of Florida lacrosse players, UF swim coaches and people from the Department of Revenue.

"This is where we want to be," Charlie Smith said.

When he was younger, the Jacksonville native said he detailed cars. Nearby was a shaved ice stand, and there, he saw the owner build up clientele for years.

"I thought, ‘This is the business I need to get into,' " Smith said.

He joined the Marine Corps straight after high school and did one tour in Iraq. When he returned to Jacksonville, he started his own mobile detailing business.

Smith now trades working 10-hour days in the beating sun with cars for 10-hour days interacting with customers, getting to know them, their hobbies and families. His mother sometimes knows an order as soon as the customer approaches the window.

"The customers are the most important things to us," she said. "Without them, we have nothing."

Facebook users who friend Charlie's Snow Shack stay up to date with times and the phrase of the day — random sayings that give the first customer of the day a free small cup of shaved ice.

"Word of mouth has come a long way for us," Smith said. "Once people in Gainesville like something, it spreads."

Trish Mader, owner of Kaboom! fireworks, which had set up the Black Cats tent next to Charlie's Snow Shack in late June, said, "It's refreshing this time of year to just come over and buy their product."

Mader frequently visited for a blue raspberry cup.

"It's a great product, great price and great service."

In December, the business will likely shut down, reopening in March.

At that time, Charlie Smith and his mother may open up a mobile unit for events. Now that Gainesville is familiar with the business, Smith said it could be easier for them to choose a second location.

"It fits everything I wanted to do," he said. "We'll see what happens from here."

Staff writer Rick Allen contributed to this report.

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