By Collin Brooks
What was given as a graduation gift to Samantha Lopez, has sort of become a gift to Johnson City, as Sam’s SnoBall Paradise has been offering unique treats on South Roan Street for a few years now.
Lopez’s parents, Esmeralda and Migel, gifted their then 17-year old daughter with her own business after her graduation from Science Hill, but they didn’t help her more than that. Six years later, after thinking about giving up multiple times, Lopez’s business is booming. A drive by the location on the downtown end of South Roan Street will let you know.
“It was definitely not something that I wanted to do at first,” said the now 23-year old Samantha. “At first it was super hard, it wasn’t fun and it was super boring. My parents made me do something that I didn’t want to do, but I am thankful for it now.”
Lopez started off the business with about 25 different flavors of SnoBalls. That has now evolved into over 150 flavors of SnoBalls and some other unique edible` treats that she has created. They are called SnoBalls, not snow cones, because of their fluffy appearance, instead of the simply granulated ice.
On top of the numerous SnoBall flavors, Lopez also offers 40+ gourmet SnoBalls, which include a scoop of ice cream and numerous unique toppings. A unique treat that Sam’s SnoBall Paradise offers is using whole pineapple or watermelons to make a bowl for the SnoBall, those also come with the fruit from inside on top and whatever kind of toppings the customer requests.
Items like the bananas foster, with a scoop of ice cream, has made Sam’s SnoBall Paradise a unique stop for a heavy or light dessert. Lopez said that sometimes she will draw inspiration from websites or sometimes it takes a bit of exploration to develop her new delicacies.
“Sometimes that inspires me, but I use to bake, so I know what goes good together,” Samantha said.
But things haven’t always been so good for the employees of Sam’s SnoBall Paradise, when they started the business six years ago, it was dependent on the families’ help, as Samantha’s younger siblings, Brittney and JonMicheal Lopez, and she would man the long hours at the trailer.
After her second year she thought about giving up, as they only served about two people per day at their old location. And while she came close, she constantly heard her parents advice and expectations of never giving up play out in her head.
She said the perseverance that she experienced taught her responsibilities and other important life lessons. But her struggles also helped her find a career path, as she ended up switching her major to business and will graduate in December with her degree.
Now she hopes to parlay her successful food truck endeavor into a storefront, as they will open a Sam’s SnoBall Paradise in the coming months. She also said that she hopes to open a store in Knoxville in a couple of years.
Now, though, she and her small staff will welcome eager SnoBall enthusiasts throughout the summer.