By Ruth Ann Ruiz
The Post Newspaper Features Editor
Do you want pickles on your snow cone? If you do, you get them inside the ice and on top of the ice at Snow King in La Marque. Pickles are part of what gives piccadilly its flavor, and it was a best seller on a hot Sunday afternoon at Snow King.
Along with pickles you can also get caramel syrup, cream and a few other sweet toppings added to both the middle of the ice and the top of the cone.
“If you ask for your cream before we fill the cup with ice, we can put it in the middle and it tastes better,” said owner Greg Cornett.
Snow King is a busy place in the summertime, it’s best for a reporter to stay out of the way. There’s not a moment for staff to stop and think. Each person moves automatically to take orders, shave the ice, add flavors prepare Frito pie, chili dogs, nachos and sliced beef sandwiches.
Greg is the kind of business owner who works right alongside his employees doing the same tasks as his staff. His employees report they like having him as a boss, but the work is hectic.
His staff members need great customer service skills because that’s part of what the customers rave about.
“We come here for the hospitality,” shared one customer.
They also keep coming back for their favorite menu items.
“I can speak for my husband. He loves the sliced beef sandwiches and the chili dogs, and we like Greg,” said another customer.
Greg doesn’t scrimp on creating a treat that makes his customers want to come back for more. He reports that he does not use a concentrate for his flavors. Rather, he follows a recipe which requires adding sugar to each flavor. All flavors have the same amount of sugar Greg said.
He shared that he drives over to Stafford to get ice cream bars, the specialty ones sold in ice cream trucks. When the chili for his chili dogs stopped being sold in Galveston County, he found it in Harris County and started going there to fetch the chili his customers love.
“I am competitive, and I want to be sure I offer my customers everything they might want,” Greg shared.
Blocks of ice can only be found in Houston; he makes at least one and sometimes two trips to Houston for ice blocks.
His flavors come out of New Orleans. Why does he order his flavors from New Orleans? Well, he explained that in doing so, he’s respecting the tradition that was started by the original owner of Snow King, who got his flavors from New Orleans. The business was started in 1979 by a local high school football coach.
Greg shared that he was driving down the street one day in 2008 and saw a for sale sign. He said he really wanted to get out of building houses for his dad’s business, so he negotiated a deal with the owner and has been shaving ice ever since April 2009.
He and his staff are still shaving the ice with one of the owner’s original ice shavers, which also came from New Orleans.
“I’ve rebuilt this machine five times,” Greg said. “I’ve got others. You have to have back up machines,” he added
Another of his special touches is that the ice in King Cones comes right out of the shaver. It never sits in a bin. This is a practice that keeps his cones tasting fresh, keeps customers coming back and keeps his staff with their game hat on during their entire shift.
Doubters were one of the keys to Greg’s success at Snow King.
Greg’s job history was in the music industry. He was a drummer and played with 24 bands in the Pacific Northwest. Then he came to Texas and went to work for his father building houses.
Without a track record as a successful businessman, he had a lot of doubters. He shared that it seemed no one thought he was going to be able to revive the snow cone business. According to Greg, his own parents were lining up with the rest of the doubters.
“Since everyone told me I couldn’t do it, it made me even more determined to be successful,” Greg said.
Fourteen years later, with lines backing up so much his parking lot is overflowing, Greg said he wishes he had added a drive through to his business.
Greg deviated from the original business by adding food to the menu. On a busy day, the chili dogs run out before the customers.
Snow King is more than just a place to get a snow cone and a Frito pie. It’s a place to come and experience a personalized treat from a local business owner who sets his own rules—as long as those rules follow all the city and county codes. He is a big stickler for county health code rules.
“You have to pour the flavor on the cone over the counter, and if you spill you have to clean it up right then,” Greg said. He’s proud of the three years when the health inspectors gave him an outstanding rating.
Though you can get any combination of flavors and, for an additional charge, numerous toppings, you cannot get extra syrup added to the shaved ice. There’s a reason for that.
“Snow cones are meant to be eaten and if you add too much syrup, then it just becomes a slushy,” Greg explained.
Candy apple with caramel syrup and a touch of butterscotch makes for a sweet and savory combination without even adding pickles. Snow King carries about 60 flavors and for his customers, Greg said, he’ll special order a flavor just to give it a try.
Don’t kid yourself, snow cones aren’t just for little ones. Adults were stepping up and ordering adult-sized frozen delights as often as children were.