Family launches a cool place for a hot summer

Who would have thought that just as the temperature began to heat up, an igloo would show up on D Street, across from the retired Hillcrest Motel?

Although not an ice-sculpted structure, The Igloo has become popular with folks from all over the area.

The Igloo-a small aqua-blue building with a penguin on the front-has been open for only a couple of weeks. Inside it, an ambitious family is making snowcones for the community.

New to Hillsboro

The family who started this business, Alan and Jean Regier, formerly of Turpin, Okla., recently relocated to Hillsboro.

Daughter Jenny-who works at Tabor College and is married to David Epp-lives here, while her younger sister, Sarah-who just graduated from Turpin High School-will attend Bethel College in Newton this fall. And Jean’s mother, Lillian Plett, resides at Parkside Homes.

Jean, a nurse at the Mid Kansas Family Practice Clinic in Hesston, is staying with her sister Ruth in Hesston while they look for a house.

An idea takes off

You can thank Alan, who has worked as a rancher and carpenter, for the “go ahead.”

The girls were looking for a summer job, and snowcones sounded perfect. Alan said he would help them, and the idea took off from there.

While working as a school nurse in Liberal, which was about a 40-minute drive from Turpin, Jean became aware of two snowcone stands in the community. So, when the family hatched the idea to get into the business, they toured the two stands.

“The stands were really nice about letting us come in and seeing how their stuff worked,” Jenny said. “They talked to us, telling us how to get started.”

Taking a snowcone stand to Hillsboro was an easy decision.

“We talked to other towns in the area, and Hillsboro was by far the most welcome,” Alan said. “They said they used to have a snowcone concession stand here, but hadn’t had one for several years.

“The folks at the city were very excited that we would come. They were very helpful.”

After the Regiers bought the building from a friend in Liberal, David and Alan loaded it onto a trailer and moved it to Hillsboro.

“It was an ordeal in itself to move the building,” Alan said.

Once on the trailer, the building stood almost as high as a semi-truck, David said.

“When we got here, David reshingled it, Alan put the plumbing inside and Sarah went to painting on the outside-so it took a couple of fun days to get ready,” Jean said.

Sarah and her cousin, Sheri Bartel, painted the building’s exterior.

“We got on our computer and found some letters-you know, the snow-capped letters,” Sarah said. “Then found a picture and drew it on, like a rough sketch, and painted it.”

The Igloo was scheduled to open Thursday, June 12.

“But then Dad and Sarah were so excited,” Jenny said. “I got home from work and they said we’re opening tonight (Wednesday)-we can’t wait, we’re ready!”

Added Jean: “They were going to go down there to make some snowcones and see how it worked, and all of a sudden, they were selling them.”

Hours for the small business are posted as 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 2 p.m. to “late” on Saturday.

The family is asking for customer opinions about opening a few hours on Sunday.

Making snowcones

Making a snowcone isn’t as easy as pie-the hardest part is making sure the snow is soft. The Igloo’s ice shaver skims ice off of a large block, which must set out for about an hour so the snow in the cup is soft.

“The humidity in the air and the temperature of the building can make a difference on how soft and nice the ice shaves,” Alan said. “So as customers try them, they might find the ice different from time to time.”

With 17 flavors, the Regiers offer the right taste for almost all the estimated 100 or so customers who come each day.

According to the family, The Igloo’s most unusual flavor is Tiger’s Blood, a mixture of passion fruits-like fruit punch, and the customers’ favorite seems to be Silver Fox-similar to creme soda or vanilla.

“All the little kids like the basics-like cherry, grape and lemon lime,” Jean said.

“Either that, or that’s what their parents order them,” Jenny added, laughing. “(I) like the little girl who came up and said ‘I want one just like the penguin is holding.”

Plans for fall

When the school year starts, the family plans to slow down with The Igloo business.

“We’ll probably have to do shorter hours,” Alan said. “I’ll try to be open some evenings in September if it works out. It depends on customers. If they want us to be open, let us know.”

As for this family’s future…

“We had a good 18 years on the farm…and we’re glad for that experience,” Jean said. “But we’re off on a new adventure, so we’ll see where this part of our lives takes us.”

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