Archive for Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tropical Sno: Fruit flavors and summer heat combine to make this Lawrence business a seasonal slam-dunk

Tad Gellender, owner of Tad's Tropical Sno, serves up Hawaiian shaved ice treats out of his store near Ninth and Iowa streets.

Tad Gellender, owner of Tad's Tropical Sno, serves up Hawaiian shaved ice treats out of his store near Ninth and Iowa streets.

July 23, 2008


A cold treat

Tad Gellender of Tad's Tropical Sno demonstrates shaving and flavoring ice. Enlarge video

On the street

What is your favorite frozen treat to have on a hot day?

The Fla-Vor-Ice pops that you push up out of the plastic.

More responses

The flavors are like those from a kid's daydream on a summer day: Jurassic Juice, Blue Cotton Candy, Wipe Out - all fruity, neon-colored goodness.

Since 1995, Tad's Tropical Sno has been churning out mounds of warm-weather confections to customers young and old from its tiny 12-by-14-foot space at 939 Iowa.

Back then, owner Tad Gellender built the shack, set up shop and opened the first of six stores across the state with the Tad's name. Gellender was a recent college grad from Pittsburg State with a business degree and the crazy idea that folks in Midwest college towns would love a shaved ice treat.

Turns out he was right.

Manager Ali Dankenbring estimates the Lawrence store goes through up to 1,600 cones on a busy, hot day, which means using 42 gallons of ice and multiple gallons of flavored syrup. Per week, the store uses 60 to 70 gallons of flavored syrup and easily cleans out all five freezers filled with ice that are crammed into the space.

Fans love it so much his college-age customers ask for it by name - inebriated and in the middle of the night.

"They call my business line enough. Kids do that all the time when they're drunk or whatever," Gellender says with a smile.

Cool customers

The pull of Tad's is strong for the real snow cone lover, and there's no end to the repeat customers. They are happy to show up nearly every day from the beginning of the season - the store opens the day after spring break - until the leaves are turning when Tad's closes for the winter in October. All Gellender has to do is take the shutters off the windows, and the regulars flock to the shop.

"I don't even need to advertise," he says.

None of his six stores do, and he can't imagine the 75 stores he supplies in Kansas and Nebraska need to do much either - not with the loyalty of the regulars in play.

"There are definitely regulars. We have this lady who gets black cherry, like six big Jayhawks (the second-largest size) of them and puts them in her freezer every time and saves them," Dankenbring says. "And there's just certain people that just walk up ... and most of them are slightly surprised that you remember their order. But when you see them every day you just kind of pick up on what they usually get."

Dankenbring says that the folks behind the counter do try and get customers out of their ruts, since the majority flocking to the store's top three flavors: Summer Breeze, Tiger's Blood and Turtle Power. Recently, the shop posted a list of employees' favorites to bump up interest in the other 130 or so flavors Tad's carries. And the employees always suggest adding "'cream," a thick, dairy topping.

"It just makes it taste really creamy like ice cream," Dankenbring says.

Honking for 'sno'

Siblings David Fristoe and Brenda Flippin, both 19, definitely feel the pull of the cone. The brother and sister drove in recently from Olathe to Lawrence, just to get cones - despite the price of gas.

"It's delicious," Fristoe says, digging into his half-and-half of cherry and grape, saying he's also gone all the way to Independence, Mo., to get his snow cone fix.

Fristoe decided to introduce his sister to his addiction and made her an easy convert.

"I don't think I can finish it. I'm going to try to do it, though," she says after musing about what it would be like to get a job making - and eating - snow cones every day.

And though Flippin admits their trip from Olathe also included a stop at a pet store, she says her Hawaiian Spike watermelon-kiwi-strawberry flavored cone makes up for every gas-guzzling mile.

"These snow cones would have been worth (the drive) anyway," she says. "Just by themselves."


mmiller 9 years, 10 months ago

Loooovvvvvvvvvvveeeee TAD's! I'm going there Saturday!

Bassetlover 9 years, 10 months ago

Tad is laughing all the way to the bank and only has to work 8 months out of the year. The rest of us should be so lucky. He has earned his success & is an incredibly decent guy and terrific person to work for, from what I hear. Congrats to him!!!

ronwell_dobbs 9 years, 10 months ago

We've got a Tropical Sno outlet down here in Baldwin City also. A great little place called Jitters that is a coffee drink trolley by morning and a snow cone stand by afternoon. Great stuff.Glad to hear that Tad's doing well.

b_asinbeer 9 years, 10 months ago

Wow...instant credibility loss with that name, "no_your_a_douschebag". I'm not even going to start with the spelling mistakes.I have to agree though to some extent, if Joe College gets sued, why not this guy? I'm not advocating that he does, but one standard should apply everywhere else. Anyone disagree?With that said, I've not been a fan of the place. But, if people love paying for flavored frozen water, that's fine by me. It's their money, they have the right to spend it wherever/however they want.

coolmarv 9 years, 10 months ago

How much does Tad have to pay for the use of the word Jayhawk? It is a size choice as well as a flavor mix. First Joe College, next Joe Snow Cone.

Marcus DeMond 9 years, 10 months ago

My wife likes Sheridan's and I love Tads. I just had a fuzzy navel last weekend and it was sooo good. Keep up the good work Tad.

Alison Roberts 9 years, 10 months ago

I LOVE Tad's! I still need to get down there and have one! My first job was working at a place just like this... same size "shack" and everything. Sometimes they didnt even have enough in their account for our paychecks to go through, but we got free sno-cones. YUM. I loved that job :)

LTownBaby 9 years, 10 months ago

It's actually called a Jayhawker and I don't know if that infringes on anyone's rights or not. Doc of the Bay is by far the best they have.

Deja Coffin 9 years, 10 months ago

I love the cotton candy and banana!! I think I'm going to have to talk my husband in to stopping by there tonight!

Haiku_Cuckoo 9 years, 10 months ago

"How much does Tad have to pay for the use of the word Jayhawk? It is a size choice as well as a flavor mix.First Joe College, next Joe Snow Cone."This is a nice article. Don't ruin it by acting like a d-bag in the comments section.Two thumbs up for Tad's! I love that place.

JHawker 9 years, 10 months ago

TAHITIAN TREAT!!! I love Tad's tropical sno! We would come every day with lunch after marching camp and take an extra one back when we knew we'd be late - it was always worth it! For those on facebook - join the group and show the love!

imagold 9 years, 10 months ago

My daughter and her fiance are working their way through the TTS menu...alphabetically (is that how it's listed?). Last I knew they were in the 'c's and had enjoyed all but a couple and enjoy the experience immensely.

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