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Return to the tropics

Colfax Tropical Sno holds strong, reopens one year after vandalism

Published: Wednesday, June 29, 2016 11:45 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2016 11:59 a.m. CDT
(Mike Mendenhall/Jasper County Tribune)
Eric and JoEllen Sloan, left, of Colfax, enjoy their newly remodeled Tropical Sno hut on Front Street with shaved-ice specialist/employee Jessica Albright. The Sloans reopened their Tropical Sno stand June 11 after repairing the building from vandalism which caused them to shut down last year before the end of the season.

COLFAX — An umbrella, some high-back chairs and a cone of shaved ice are all Eric and JoEllen Sloan need to create a little slice of Tropical paradise in Colfax.

The husband and wife business partners reopened their Tropical Sno stand for the summer June 11 to the relief of many local Guava and Tutti Frutti fans.

Eric and JoEllen closed the shaved ice business prematurely last summer when their stand was caught in the middle of a string of June break-ins which included Weirick’s Pharmacy, the Colfax Public Library and the Colfax Little League concession stand. Due to the extent of the vandalism, the couple was forced to close after two juveniles, who were deemed responsible for the damage, smashed the cash register and coated the hut’s interior walls with flavored syrup. The inside of the newly-constructed Tropical Sno was unusable.

At the end of last season the Sloans were unsure if they would reopen, but the public was hopeful. JoEllen said a flurry of people asking them to give it a second chance persuaded the Sloan family to remodel and reopen.

“We had quite few people ask us throughout the winter if we were going to stay and said, ‘oh, I hope you guys reopen’ and ‘I hope this doesn’t keep you from opening again,’” JoEllen said. “You hate to give in to things like that, so we thought let’s give it a shot again and not let some individuals ruin it for everybody.”

Eric remodeled the hut’s inside and replaced everything. The decision, and the remodel, created “a lot of late nights,” Eric said. They’ve not only reopened but made a few aesthetic improvements. The Sloans also own Cooper’s Ice in the building adjacent to their Front Street snow cone business. They make cubed ice for catering and also supply blocked ice to multiple Tropical Sno locations in central Iowa.

They recently installed an awning on the Walnut Street side of Cooper’s Ice with partial funding from a Colfax Main Street downtown signage grant. JoEllen said they are also working on new signage for Cooper’s Ice since many locals don’t know it’s there. The umbrella and high-back chairs are also new additions.

Originally from Bondurant, the Sloans moved to Colfax in 2011. As the Des Moines suburb’s urban sprawl accelerated, Eric and JoEllen looked at moving their family — and their business — into the country and to small-town Iowa. They bought their first Tropical Sno location in Ankeny nine years ago as an entrepreneurial and educational experience for their children.

The Sloans Colfax Tropical Sno is open daily from 2 to 8 p.m.

Contact Mike Mendenhall at mmendenhall@

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