SPRING HILL — Customers from New York or New Orleans step skeptically, but hopefully through the door at Frigid Frog, a frozen treat shop of a rare ilk in Florida.
"Is this the real snow of the street carts we grew up with?" they ask.
Indeed, it is.
"It's not a 'Sno-Cone,'" said owner Mary Walizer. "You eat it with a spoon. It's real soft, like snow in a cup."
Walizer tapped a shiny, steel "Snow Wizard" machine housing a set of wicked knife blades.
"This is the secret," she said. "From a 10-pound block of ice, the blades shave it really fine. A 'Sno-Cone' uses crushed ice."
As if on cue on a recent afternoon, New York native Reggie Pena ambled in, spied the signature machine and smiled.
"Dad had a shaved ice cart in New York City," he said, ordering up a coconut-raspberry-rainbow cup of nostalgia.
Pena had spied the outdoor sign, touting "Shaved Ice."
"I was going for lunch, and I saw this instead," he said, with spoon and straw in hand. "I'll bring my son in."
Walizer explained shaved ice's attraction.
"With a 'Sno-Cone,' the flavor drains to the bottom," she said. To ensure even distribution, Walizer layers snow, flavor, snow, flavor, as she builds the concoction.
Customers select from a menu of 50 natural fruit oil flavors, sometimes mixing them — pink lemonade with blue raspberry, or green apple and raspberry with grape.
"Blue raspberry is what the kids like," Walizer said. The adult favorite is pina colada, a marriage of pineapple and coconut.
There's also a "stuffed" snowball, in which Walizer tucks a scoop of ice cream into the snow. For the premium frappuccino, she layers in sweet cream, marshmallow, chocolate and caramel.
Cups come in three sizes: tadpole, pollywog and frog, $2 to $5.
The catchy names come from the company headquarters of Frigid Frog, in Eldorado, Ark., to the independent distributors.
With a lengthy background in culinary arts and no desire to retire, Walizer, 62, discovered shaved ice when researching own-your-own-business opportunities. She launched with a food trailer, up-sizing to a bricks-and-mortar home in Kass Circle in October. She continues to cart her successful mobile operation to various outdoor community events.
"The thing about this that's neat," Walizer said, "is ice cream (customers) will leave a line and go somewhere else. With shaved ice, they'll wait and wait and wait." She served from her mobile trailer at a recent Easter egg hunt and said she had a line of customers 50 yards long.
"It never went away," she said. "When we do these events, that's about average."
People from Arkansas, Texas, Maryland and Puerto Rico also know shaved ice, she said. "These people grew up with it. There's one on every corner."
From her permanent site and mobile trailer, Walizer is acquainting locals with the allure of Frigid Frog snowballs. And here, there's not one on every corner.
Contact Beth Gray at email@example.com.