Snow cone stands say it’s not all fun in the sun

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OKLAHOMA CITY– It’s a treat that rings in the start of summer every year.

Snow cones stands are popping up all across town and business is booming.

In fact, so many people want to take part in the tasty treat that the Oklahoma County Health Department has its own “Snow Cone Stand Construction Guide.”

Inspectors must go over four pages of new, detailed instructions this year, compared to just one page years ago.

There’s a long checklist to keep up with every summer while staying on top of the demand.

Since ice is considered its own food group, the health department is always knocking at the door.

Sasan Pilehvar, Oklahoma County health inspector, says, “The only violation we see is improper handling of the ice and luckily, that doesn’t happen much especially when we are around.”

Amy McSwane is the owner of Shimmers on NW Expressway and says those first couple of summers were a struggle.

McSwane says, “We had to make sacrifices. We had to take risks.”

They’ve done their research, hired business consultants, passed countless inspections and stayed up on building codes.

In addition to staying legal, now they are trying to keep up with demand.

So far this summer, workers are serving 300 snow cones a day.

McSwane says that while customers tend to flock to the stand during summer, her family is working hard all year long.

“We turn up a lot of eyebrows. My husband and I both do this full time,” she said. “A lot of people are like, ‘How can you do this full time? Does it make that much money?’ Our first two years, no it did not make that much money. We made a fraction of what we make today.”

They have perfected their system and summer help has made this snow cone shop a success.

“It also took hiring the right kids,” says McSwane. “I have 45 employees and they’re the ones that are running my snow cone stand.”

As a seasonal food service establishment ,the McSwanes are only allowed to work a certain span of the year.

However, they say they wish they could work past Labor Day.

“Snow cones do mean a lot to Oklahoma so that’s why we question the 180 days,” says McSwane. “It’s hotter in Oklahoma more than 180 days. We could be profitable from March to October.”

The McSwanes say it costs as much as $25,000 to start a stand like Shimmers, but they’ve made enough money now to quit their day jobs as teachers.