Odessa’s ‘Sno King’ serves up cool treat

‘Dream big.’

That’s the motto of Odessa entrepreneur Gerardo Mazariegos, who owns ‘Sno King,’ a unique snow cone business that uses real fruit to create the different flavored syrups that cover his icy concoctions. Most similar businesses use artificially flavored syrups, that taste, well, “artificial,” he said.

“I’ve always had an itch to start my own business,” said Mazariegos, who launched Sno King three years ago. “My ultimate goal is to someday turn this business into a franchise.

“You have to take advantage of all your opportunities and learn to follow your dreams.”

Mazariegos, 27, learned to make his own homemade syrups from his mother, Regina Flores, who operated her own snow cone business when the family lived in Guadalajara, which is located in Western Mexico.

“I’m the only (snow cone) business in the area that makes syrup naturally out of fruit,” Mazariegos said. “We use real mangos, strawberries, pineapples, coconuts, limes, pears and other fruit.”

Mazariegos’ most popular concoctions appear on what he refers to as his “secret menu,” which boasts such tasty treats as strawberry cheesecake snow cones. The unique treat features a layer of rich cream on the bottom, topped with a layer of cheesecake bits and another layer of shaved ice with holes poked into it so that the syrup topping can pour through each layer.

A spicy concoction made with mangos is “My most popular snow cone; we call it, “El Diablito” (the Devil),” he says with a mischievous laugh.

It hasn’t all been fun and snow cones.

Mazariegos’ parents relocated to Texas when he was 5 years old. Mazariegos was granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status when he was still a teenager.

DACA status is an immigration policy that allows individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children to continue to live and work in the country and protects them from being deported.

“My family moved around Texas a lot when I was growing up,” Mazariegos said. “I was a very insecure kid. I didn’t speak the language; I was bullied at school, didn’t have good grades and was on the heavy side. But I was always very goal-oriented.”

Mazariegos was 18 when his family relocated to Odessa when his father found a better paying job in the oil fields.

Mazariegos’ confidence began to grow after he joined a jujitsu club and he began to lose weight. It was then he started to pursue his business dreams.

“I was working in Dillard’s in the shoe department, when a customer came in,” Mazariegos recalls. He didn’t think much about the encounter until a friend pointed out that the customer had been John Bushman, a well-known Odessa businessman and philanthropist.

“I took off running after him,” said Mazariegos, who finally caught up to Bushman, whose properties include Music City Mall and the downtown Bank of America building, and the two men hit it off.

Mazariegos calls Bushman his most important mentor, who was happy to share his business wisdom and knowledge.

It still took several more years and jobs, including working an oil field job, before he found the confidence, and saved enough money to purchase the trailer truck that would become Sno King.

“It took a long time to get a bank loan because of my DACA status,” said Mazariegos, even though at the time he had an excellent credit score and healthy savings account.

Although his business has grown steadily, Mazariegos admits his still uncertain legal status in the U.S. hangs over him everyday like a menacing rain cloud.

“Last year was the most stressful of my life,” said Mazariegos, referring to the Trump Administration’s efforts to end DACA and deport those with DACA status.

“My mom called me one morning last summer and said, ‘(the Supreme Court) has made a ruling,” said Mazariegos, his voice choking with emotion at he recalls the conversation. “Her voice was shaking and my head just dropped. I thought I was going to be deported and lose everything.”

That’s when his mother explained, “No, the court ruled in favor of DACA. They’re bringing it back.”

Mazariegos takes a deep breath before continuing his story.

“If you don’t take a risk and try something, you may never find out what you can accomplish,” Mazariegos said. “If there is any advice I could give to someone, its ‘follow your dreams and don’t let anything stop you, because having regrets is tough.’ I don’t want to look back someday and have regrets.”