John Tankersley prepares new location

It was a steaming hot day in Houston, part of the recent heat wave. Outdoor temperatures had climbed to around 96 degrees in the shade. Having to do errands, I could not get cooled off and my car air conditioner was cranking on overdrive.

Then it appeared, like a mirage in a desert at the perfect time. A store off the southwest corner of Fondren at West Bellfort that read Sno Dreamz. 

Coincidentally, I was daydreaming about anything cold, and of course that is exactly what I got when I stopped in for icy sweet treats.

The modest place,  converted from a shoe repair shop, free-standing like an ice-cream stand and situated in a parking lot, is now moving into a regular storefront. 

Serving up a crowd with a long line, they use machine-shaved ice that is so fine, it resembles snow. The customer gets to pick and choose from 70 syrups to flavor the ice. With sizes from small to jumbo, portions are always overflowing, sitting high above the cup rims. Prices are reasonable and far below retail ice cream treats.

For those who need to watch their sugar intake, there are three sugar-free flavors as well – banana, watermelon and strawberry. 

To make the shaved ice treat extra exotic, sweet condensed milk toppings are available, as well as lots of specialty flavor combinations. Getting creative with toppings for the shaved ice treat, Sno Dreamz offers chopped pickles, Warheads, Kool-aid, and gummy bears, among others. Whipped cream and vanilla ice cream are also offered as toppings at extra cost.

There’s an interesting and heartwarming story about how the business began in the Brays Oaks Management District.

Denise Tankersley, who co-owns it with husband John, said she was always entrepreneurial and owned other businesses. A native of New Orleans, she grew up on these shaved ice treats called “snoballs” in her native city.

She attended Texas Southern University and stayed in Houston. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, she had about 17 relatives come to Houston, many of them staying with her. At some point she heard there were 50,000 New Orleans transplants here.

That’s when Tankersley had a brainstorm.

“I thought that so many people migrated here to Houston that it would be a great thing to bring a small piece of New Orleans here in a business,” Tankersley said. “That’s when we thought of snow cones, and came up with a catchy name in Sno Dreamz.”

Now with 14 years in the successful business, Tankersley recalled how she had to go to New Orleans to research the snoball trade. There she learned the art of making these confections and she bought all of her equipment there. She worked on perfecting the treat for eight months to a year, with the goal of making it “better than anyone was doing.” 

“So many people thanked us for bringing a piece of their home to Houston,” Tankersley recalled. 

Even their daughter, Courtney Tankersley has gotten into the act. She opened another branch of Sno Dreamz near the University of Houston football stadium.

Now about those 70  flavors, and the multitude of choices: Most of the syrups in common flavors are purchased from a vendor, while the Tankersleys have gotten creative and concocted their own flavors through the years. 

Their menu includes snacks such as nachos and Frito or Cheeto pies, hot dogs, and even potatoes, but the customers in the long lines waiting at the stand the day I visited had one thing on their mind — a cool, refreshing treat of flavored shaved ice.

The modest stand is transitioning to an upgraded location in a store at 11322-D Fondren facing the same parking lot.

Knowing the hottest Houston days are ahead,  you can bet there will always be a line waiting at the new, larger and air-conditioned location.

— by Arlene Nisson Lassin