Kaitlyn Dudley went through her usual checklist in getting the family’s trailer ready for departure.
The 6-by-12-foot trailer has running water, stainless steel appliances, a serving window and a back door for access, and a generator to provide electricity. The rest is Dudley’s reason for spending a few hours away from her New Windsor home on a recent summer evening ― dozens of bags of ice, and more than 30 KoldKiss flavors ready to be served at Uncle B’s Snowballs stand.
The Dudley family ― parents Brian and Karen, and daughters Kaitlyn, 26, and Allie, 24 ― has been taking their trailer around Carroll County, and beyond, for most of the last 10 years. Like many snowball stand owners and workers, the coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on business. But Uncle B’s, along with several of its contemporaries, presses on.
They lost out on annual stops involving youth sporting events, and traditional favorites such as carnivals or end-of-school social activities. But the Dudleys have been visiting area parks and recreational areas to try and create a little business.
“We’re hoping maybe toward the end of summer if some things break loose,” Brian Dudley said about any potential planned events. “But if not ... it’s what the Lord gives you, right?”
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It’s a side business for the Dudleys, who said they lucked into purchasing the KoldKiss equipment years ago and recalled their childhood in Arbutus when a local snowball stand operator told them he put his kids through college by spending his summers in his stand.
“[Kaitlyn] and Allie paid for their off-campus housing one year in college,” Karen Dudley said.
Now, instead of parking Uncle B’s trailer at one of the Lax Max youth lacrosse tournament sites, or being a regular vendor at the Month of Sundays concert series in downtown Westminster, Kaitlyn Dudley said they try to visit such places as Krimgold Park in Woodbine to see who’s out and about.
“We used to have a local one up the corner, and my sister and I would always beg to go get snowballs,” she said. “So when we got out own, I was like, ‘Oh, we don’t have to go anywhere. We can just have our own.' It’s so nice. I love it with the little kids, it’s fantastic.”
Dudley said their top-selling flavor is egg custard, and marshmallow is the preferred topping. Uncle B’s also has eight sugar-free flavors, and Dudley said they take pride in not charging extra for those.
Inside the trailer there’s blue tape on the floor to set proper social distance markings, and Uncle B’s has automated hand sanitizer waiting for customers.
Blizzard’s Shaved Ice has a similar setup at owner Storm Blizzard’s stationary stand located in the Westminster Crossing shopping center. Snowball lovers get their choice of flavors, and people can take refuge from the sun at a few nearby umbrella-covered tables. There’s a hand-washing station on location as well.
Last year, Blizzard’s first owning the stand, he had one worker open during the day and two in the evenings. This year, Blizzard said he has two daytime workers so one can handle money and the other person can create the snowballs.
Blizzard’s Shaved Ice opened May 1, Blizzard said, and at first he wasn’t sure how business would be with all of the shopping center’s stores closed.
“From Day 1, we’ve been busier than ever,” said Blizzard, who believes his was the only local stand open that early. “You would see grandparents coming and meeting their families there for the first time in two months. We must have had 50 people within the first week or so thank us for just opening. ... Business has actually been pretty good this year considering the circumstances.”
Blizzard said July 4 turned into a successful day for his snowball stand since there weren’t any planned fireworks displays in the area, and it fell on a Saturday.
“It’s been a surprisingly pleasant and happy year as far as snowballs stands are concerned,” he said. “At least ours.”
Finksburg resident Rob Sunderland, who owns Kona Ice of Carroll County, said being able to connect with people in their neighborhoods has been huge for his income. With so many school-related and youth sports functions canceled, Sunderland found himself scurrying around the county to find business rather than parking his mobile truck and waiting for lines.
“The community really has just embraced it, and it has been amazing,” Sunderland said. “It’s kind of been exhausting. I’m just chasing around stuff where I used to just sit in one spot. But we’re adapting and really enjoying the scene, everybody in the neighborhoods and how we’ve been received. ... It’s been awesome.
“This is something we’re definitely going to keep doing.”
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Sunderland said he has a new feature called Kurbside Kona, where customers can place online orders and find a truck near them to deliver.
“That’s gotten tremendous appeal in the neighborhoods,” Sunderland said. “People just sit home all the time now, so they’re looking for things to do. I promoted an event on Facebook saying we’re going to be in these neighborhoods this evening, and you can go to this link and place your [order]. And then we deliver right to the front of their house.”
Kona’s partnership with many of Carroll’s parent-teacher associations is strong, Sunderland said, and he’s getting orders through some of the PTA groups via Facebook.
“We’ve always worked with the community and this is a way we can keep that up,” he said.
Temperatures are starting to climb as the calendar delves into July, and that usually means more outdoor activity. Uncle B’s Snowballs had a small but eager crowd as its recent stop to Krimgold, and those numbers are sure to go up as weather dictates and people spread the word.
It’s a sweet, and relatively cheap, way to beat the heat.
“Just keep it fair, keep it honest,” Brian Dudley said. “And you know what? You sell three snowballs instead of one snowball. Like [my wife] said, everybody likes a snowball.”