One could argue that Rainbow Sno-Cones was a ground-zero hipster of Audubon Park Garden District in Orlando. It was cool (figuratively and literally) on Corrine Drive before any of the newer businesses that have been bringing attention to the arty, little neighborhood over the past few years. Its proprietors will now be serving their fluffy, fresh-made shave ice in a new location on Howell Branch Road in Winter Park.
The shop's namesake sno-cones are among its most photogenic — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Owners Bob and Karen Homer were sad to leave their longtime strip mall spot, where they’ve spent some 19 years serving ice (and more than occasionally throwing it) through a walk-up window, while customers lingered happily on the colorful bench outside. Bob bought the business from two sisters - New Orleans natives who missed home - and has since perfected the art he calls “ice curing.” You might even call him an ice whisperer.
It’s so mystical a practice, in fact, that it’s near inexplicable, having something to do with the precise temperature of the massive ice block as it leaves the freezer and how long it sits outside before Homer clamps it into the machine for the crushing-and-shaving process. Karen, who has helped Bob regularly for only the past year, she says, is getting the hang of it.
Silly, perhaps, but the resulting texture is quite supernatural on the tongue. Dense enough to contain the syrup without caving or melting (Homer’s hand, praise the quiescently frozen gods, is never too heavy.) it remains light with airy pockets. Those from colder climes might call it light pack; it's ideal for throwing snowballs. And for loyal customers who fretted an actual store interior might put an end to Homer’s playful ambushes, two words: fear not.
Leaving blocks out before shaving is part of Bob Homer's self-taught "curing" process — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
The shop is colorful and spacious, with little nods to the Crescent City. Music plays. Soldiered rows of jewel-toned syrup bottles have found showy homes on display shelves. And gone is the old peg-letter menu in favor of a broad chalkboard where kids can spend even longer perusing the vast flavor menu, while parents are forced to endure a 180-degree lesson in patience.
All those his customers have come to love – from the tri-color rainbow to tart sour apple, the spot-on cotton candy to the coconut-strawberry “tiger’s blood” and all the creamier delights, as well – are still on the menu.
Folks will likely linger longer than they used to and perhaps even visit more often, now that they’ve got a climate-controlled space in which to enjoy their hand-wrought delights.
“About 70-to-80 percent of our customers have said the new shop is closer to where they live,” Homer says, “though some come from Winter Garden and farther – even Tampa.”
The new among them will no doubt delight in having the refreshing treats close at hand. The old will delight to see the Homers’ familiar bench parked right outside.