Summer is quickly approaching, and for most Texans, that means a lot of iced teas and cold beers – because duh. But in Frisco, another cold treat is the star of the summer: snow cones. Not just any snow cones either, but snow cones from the Frisco Snow Cone Lady, who operates out of a small stand with a large, dusty parking lot just outside of Frisco Square. This year, the Snow Cone Lady is celebrating 35 years in business, and for decades, she’s been commanding lines of up to an hour each summer.
Mary Mathis was born and raised In Durant, Okla., where her relationship with snow cones began at her brother’s Little League games.
“I can't actually remember my first snow cone, but I know it had to have been at the ballpark in Durant where my brother played on a Little League team,” says Mathis, better known in Frisco as the Snow Cone Lady. “They were like a rock, and the juice always ended up running out the end of the paper cone. I think I ate a lot of snow cones from the bottom up.”
While attending Durant High School, where she graduated in 1966, Mathis had her first job working at a soda fountain. The skills she developed mixing flavors and making drinks as a youth would become useful to her later in life as an entrepreneur.
“In 1972, I ended up in the very small town of Frisco,” Mathis says of what is daily becoming less and less of a small town. “In 1979, I found myself in the position of being a single mother of my two children, Shane and Brandi. Shane worked at a little snow cone stand and begged me to buy it when the owner decided to sell. I took the chance and so began my current 35 years of being a snow cone lady.”
The cones handed out the windows of Mathis' stand near Babes Chicken are a far cry from the subpar snow served at the baseball games of her childhood. The “snow” is well-structured but soft enough to be immediately manageable and, in lieu of shabby paper cones, is served in cups so that even as it melts, there’s no mess.
Whichever flavored syrup or combination you select from the stand’s list of more than 50 options will be evenly – and liberally – distributed throughout the icy mix. Flavors range from typical snow cone standards such as cherry and raspberry to some less common choices such as guava and sangria, as well as signature flavor combinations like the Frisco Favorite, which combines cherry, strawberry and grape. Snow cones are $2 for a not-so-small “small” and $2.50 for a large.
Through these flavors, the Frisco Snow Cone Lady has built a following as loyal as it is large.
“During a homecoming parade in the '90s, I got one of my first really long lines,” Mathis says. “My husband, Mike, told me it was the beginning of the future, and he was correct.”
In the years since, the lines have grown, often hovering between 30 minutes and an hour in the summer months. Mathis and her crew have spent the years enjoying the challenge to develop faster and more efficient systems, often selecting folks in the back of the line to time their wait in order to gauge their progress.
Even after all these years, Mathis has never lost her appreciation for the business she’s been able to build.
“I love being the Snow Cone Lady because I love people,” she says. “I have watched kids come to the stand, grow up and now bring their children. I am ever mindful that my customers have provided me, a single parent, the means of supporting my children and now myself for 35 years. I hope they know how grateful I am.”
For generations of kids that grew up in Frisco with the Snow Cone Lady as an integral part of their summer routines, the appreciation goes both ways.
“If you grew up in Frisco, you grew up on these snow cones,” says Stephanie Lewis, who graduated from Frisco High School in 2005, when there was one high school instead of the nine the town now boasts. “People literally race each other to get a spot in the line.”
Countless folks who grew up in Frisco have fond memories of the Snow Cone Lady, and Lewis is no different. She remembers when her mom, who was also her bus driver, would reward the kids on her bus with stops at the stand.
“My mom was a FISD bus driver, and when the kids on the bus would behave, she would treat everyone to a snow cone on Friday,” she says. “You wouldn't believe how well that worked. Still to this day, people remind me of that and tell me how my mom was the best bus driver ever for doing that.”
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Mathis doesn’t plan on ending her career as a memory-maker anytime soon, either.
“When I retire, I hope my children will carry on the legacy of my sweet business,” she says. “I’m not ready for retirement yet; I’m just going to keep on rockin’ and rollin’ and loving life.”
The Frisco Snow Cone Lady operates from mid-April through September and is open 2 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 3 to 10 p.m. on weekends. Because of the outdoor seating and line areas, the stand may close early in the event of poor weather. Information on early closings is announced via social media, so if it’s windy or raining, check the Facebook page before jumping on the Tollway.
Frisco Snow Cone Lady, 6427 Elm St., Frisco