Branding Snow ConesPosted: August 29, 2007
This weekend Rick and I found ourselves at our little neighborhood bagel shop drinking something called a “chemy” and trying to brand snow cones.
Verdugo Bagels is about as far from Starbucks as you can get. This is not one of those hip places with designer scones and fancy lattes. They have good bagels and coffee, and if you don’t want to spend $30 for breakfast, this is a great place to go on Sunday morning.
But – this was Saturday night, and as Rick and I passed by on a walk, talking once again about our hopes and dreams for the future, we noticed two unusual things. One – the bagel shop was still open, and two – they were selling “snow cones. ” Rick’s family is from Puerto Rico where they have their own version of the snow cone – called “piragua” (a pyramid of water!) and I grew up in New York and can vividly remember the tinkling bells of the snow cone carts in the summer. Snow cones seemed an unusual item for a bagel shop, so we decided to stop in and check it out.
A few minutes later we were sitting outside with the house special – called a “chemy” – a variation of the traditional snow cone, but this one made with real fruit, sweet condensed milk, and shaved ice. Rick got the tamarind, and I got strawberry. Delicious! As we slowly sipped our drinks, we started talking to the engaging woman from Mexico who makes the “chemies.” She told us her nickname was Chapita, and she was very excited about her “Chemy’s Chapita” (think “Oysters Rockefeller”). She showed us her handmade sign, where she had written “raspados” – the Mexican term for snow cone. Except she had written it as “Raspa-2”. “2” is “dos” in Spanish. It took me a minute to figure it out, but I had to smile. Chapita was doing a little branding!
She told us about her special chemy – made with a combination of ingredients that are particularly good after a night of too much alcohol. She asked us if “hair of the dog” was the right thing to call it, because her boyfriend had suggested that name but she didn’t really like the “hair” part. We offered a few names and she carefully wrote down our suggestions, thinking about each one, pronouncing the words carefully, trying to understand a language that is still somewhat foreign to her.
Then she told us her dream, that on weekends the little bagel shop would be filled with all the people of the neighborhood, hanging out, drinking cool chemies, listening to music, talking. She would love to be the hostess, overseeing all, offering delicious food and drink.
I got excited as she talked and suddenly I could imagine her dream too – the night air full of music and conversation. Suddenly the little bagel shop was a cafe in Paris. I could also see students from the nearby college rolling in on a Sunday morning after a wild party, ready for a bagel and a special chemy to cure them of a pounding head and a queasy stomach.
Rick and I were inspired by Chapita’s dream. Branding doesn’t just have to be about pushing product. It can be about bringing your own particular vision to life. Creating something that says “This is who I am and what I stand for.” I hope Chapita can find the right words to make her dreams come true. She has passion and is a hard worker. And I hope Rick and I can find the right words to make our dreams come true, as well. And when we do, maybe we’ll celebrate with a snow cone.