May 29, 2008

The mystery of Tropical Sno

My Tropical Sno Business from Empire Primitive on Flickr

I was headed to the HEB near Far West after work yesterday, and saw something unusual -- a woman at the corner of Far West and Wood Hollow, holding up some handmade signs. I slowed down just enough to catch a glimpse: "Kneaded Pleasures stole my Tropical Sno business and customers of 20 years" and wondered. What the hell? Fortunately, I found a Flickr photo today (shown above) to provide concrete proof of what I saw.

The woman was still out there when I left the store, this time talking to a couple of passersby while waving her signs. I then remembered the Tropical Sno stand that had been at that corner for years, every summer, with lines and lines of people waiting to get a sno cone. I hadn't ever been there, because I grew up in New Orleans and I crave snowballs instead (from Casey's on Airport, which is a whole other story). But the place seemed quite popular. It's not there now, and I don't know how long it's been gone.

Today, I ran a web search and found a Statesman article from 2005 about "ice stands" in Austin. I realized that the woman who was waving signs was the original owner of that Tropical Sno stand, Linda Stone, and she has in fact been running the stand in one location or another for 20 years.

Kneaded Pleasures is a combination bakery/gelato cafe that has been in same the Far West strip mall as Tropical Sno since, what, 2003 or so? I've been there a few times, mostly for work-related lunches at a previous job, and haven't been especially impressed. But what would have happened in the past year to make the Tropical Sno owner so angry that she would be outside waving signs? If it was simply local customers preferring gelato over shaved ice, that seems excessive. On the other hand, the snowcone business can be cutthroat ... remember that whole Sno-Beach/P. Terry's thing from a couple of years ago?

Does anyone know what happened? Feel free to post info in the comments. I'm weirdly intrigued.

[Follow-up entry is here.]

Photo credit: Empire Primitive on Flickr. Used with permission (thanks!).

Posted at May 29, 2008 10:43 AM

It's mildly disorienting to see my photo here, I must say, but neat all the same. My friend works in the area, and saw Linda on her lunch break. We went to H-E-B after work, same as you, and there she was. I suppose she was pretty fatigued at that point.

Our only theory was that Tropical Sno's location in the parking lot possibly bothers certain tenants. Maybe they think it's an eyesore there on the corner. Couldn't say, but she's certainly got an arresting display. Can't wait for the inevitable four-graf, five-day investigative extravaganza from the Chronicle.

Posted by: at May 29, 2008 12:58 PM

I don't know anything about snocones, but someone is opening a cupcake bakery at 28th and Rio Grande -- prepare for blood in the streets from the cupcake wars!

Posted by: Prentiss Riddle at May 29, 2008 02:10 PM

I don't have all the facts on this and I know I'm jumping to conclusions, but I find it hard to be thinking charitable thoughts about the ownership of Kneaded Pleasures. They really seem like jerks.

I remember you telling me the story of a coworker who got chewed out for reading a book while eating alone during the lunch hour.

Plus, I remember they had some terribly obnoxious signs posted about using wi-fi during lunch hours. It seems to me that if you want to encourage considerate behavior in your customers you should do so by being polite yourself.

I find very little reason to recommend Kneaded Pleasures, and I'd be sorry to hear it's true that the ownership is responsible for losing that bit of positive neighborhood color.

Posted by: Chip at May 29, 2008 02:35 PM

I went to the Tropical Sno just now (it is in its usual spot in the parking lot, open, and the ladies were there with their signs), and the guy working the stand making the snowcones was wearing a Kneaded Pleasures apron.

Figure that out.

Posted by: rachel at May 29, 2008 05:54 PM

So no one has bothered to stop and ask her any questions? I mean, drive by and take a picture but can't ask a question?

Posted by: pylorns at May 29, 2008 09:40 PM

Kneaded Pleasures sounds like a massage parlor. I wouldn't go there based on the name alone.

Posted by: at May 30, 2008 12:19 AM

I work near there and will check tomorrow and report back. Seems odd that they are working together now. Maybe we should check the middle east and see if Habitat for Humanity in Isreal is building homes for folks in Jordan. strange.

Posted by: Joe at May 30, 2008 02:16 AM

I was going to dinner and in the left-turn lane. No time to chat.

Posted by: Brad at May 30, 2008 10:33 AM

We stopped to get a snow cone today and saw Linda at the corner with the sign. She handed us a paper that said:

To all my loyal customers:

I didn't want you to think I would leave without saying goodbye. The Kneaded Pleasures owner obviously liked seeing all of you lined up in front of my stand and decided to take my livelihood away from me. First, let me thank you for your patronage over the past twenty years. I have known your parents for many years and watched you grow up from toddlers to young adults. Due to new management of the strip center, they decided to rent my space to the owner of Kneaded Pleasures. He saw my business and wanted it. He took my space along with the customer base that I have built over twenty years.

Again, thank you for being such loyal customers and I will miss you terribly".


Linda Stone
Tropical Sno.


Posted by: at May 30, 2008 09:32 PM

I am the daughter of the lady in the photo above. She is very close friends with Linda the previous Tropical Sno before Kneaded Pleasures took it out from under her. The owner of Kneaded pleasures is a horrible man. When Linda approched him to tell him how shocked she was that he would do such a thing, he didn't care at all. In fact I think his words were like "Your loss". Tropical Sno was actually my first job 10 years ago. I worked for Linda and absolutely loved it. I worked there for about 4 years and then a few times after that. Linda has worked so hard for that Sno Cone stand and built a huge clientel that weren't just customers but friends. I was out picketing one afternoon as well and felt really good after I left because I really felt we reached out and made our point. Alot of people said they would never go to his businesses again which was so nice to hear. With all that said, I ask of you not to give this man your business he doesn't deserve it in the least bit. Thank you!

Posted by: at June 3, 2008 08:54 AM

I've been to that snow cone place recently and nothing has changed. I don't understand how the owner of "Kneaded Pleasures" can take her company away from her. He didn't just take her rental spot he took her company. How is that even legal?

Posted by: at June 19, 2008 01:10 AM

I have a Tropical Sno stand that I do fests with. I did Beer Festival Years ago and got clobbered with kids. I did over $1600 in total sales for the weekend.

The next year the Ice Cream Store that was in the Square was Shaving Ice along with their ice cream business. Needless to say I can no longer get into that fest because of them. I know it is a free country and that's the way it is. It is a Cut-Throat Business.

Posted by: Anonymous at June 27, 2008 10:48 AM