Hidden Gems of Tuscaloosa: Cool down with Summer SnowBy Caroline Giddis | 04/04/2016 11:35pm
Enjoy a delicious snow cone at Summer Snow. CW | Jonathan Daniels
Around March each year something happens to the people of Tuscaloosa. The weather gets warmer, the days get longer and people get happier. Suddenly a craving rises up, one that’s been suppressed all winter, a craving for Summer Snow.
Lines start from the window and wind around the parking lot every sunny afternoon in the spring, and can be seen until the last few weeks of September. A sugary snowball is one of the most favored sweet treats in town and has been since the 1980s.
“It’s hard to believe how excited people get, and they show it,” said Sammy Sanders, the owner of Summer Snow for 27 years. “I appreciate that. It means a lot to me.”
Sanders originally bought the little snowball stand with his father in 1989, and it’s been his priority ever since. With four employees, including himself and his son Jacob, the business is 100 percent family-owned and loved.
“I just like to see people happy,” Sanders said. “I get a reward out of that.”
Before Sanders bought the snowball stand, he used to pass it every day. Sanders finally stopped one day and ordered the flavor Ice Cream and Cream; It was love at first bite.
The line to the window is filled with newcomers and dedicated fans. Sanders has developed a special relationship with people in the community. He knows just about everyone’s orders and can remember a face with ease. People bring him pictures that they’ve taken around the world, always with a sign that says “I want summer snow.” It’s a little piece of home to so many.
“We make each snowball special,” Sanders said. “We try to make it just like we were gonna eat it ourselves.”
Couples have come to Summer Snow after they get married, on their first date, or even after their first baby is born. The snowball stand has even become a road trip destination for travelers driving through Alabama.
“Everybody’s usually upbeat when they come here,” Sanders said. “They’re in a summertime mood. People just have a good time talking in line, and they haven’t even had the sugar yet.”
Some of the most popular flavors include Tiger’s Blood, Ice Cream and Cream and Blue Raspberry. There’s also a hidden menu called the VIP List with more experimental or secret flavors. If you ask for it at the window you’ll notice flavors like Miami Vice, Wedding Cake and Manhattan Project, all of which were created by Sanders himself and Summer Snow employees.
“I think our success is in the employees, we’ve had some great ones," Sanders said. "If I put a recipe up and they didn’t think it was good, they’d tell me.”
Sanders likes to keep the menu simple and the prices low. Customers select one of three sizes, choose two flavors and one topping, all for about $3.
“It’s a quality product at a low cost,” Sanders said. “I want everyone to be able to get a snowball.”
People of all ages, shapes and sizes come to get a delicious cold treat from Summer Snow. Shaved ice with sugar and a great family atmosphere, what’s not to like?
“I’ve been blessed," Sanders said. “A guy once told me that if you take care of your business, it’ll take care of you.”