Selling roadside refreshment

Snowball: Adam Knatz, 13, a young entrepreneur in Uniontown, says his business stands out because he knows "what people want."

July 16, 2000|By Kristen Dorsey | Kristen Dorsey,SUN STAFF

Drive through Uniontown almost any summer afternoon and you're sure to find 13-year-old Adam Knatz sitting alongside the road, selling his homemade snowballs.

Snowball stands are not uncommon in Carroll's small towns this time of year, but Adam believes he offers something more: personalized service.

He figures he knows more than half his customers. True, many of them are neighbors, but quite a few are commuters, passing through on their way home.

"The good thing about having a business here is that I know exactly what people want," Adam says matter-of-factly, noting that's one reason he offers sugar-free flavors (for his diabetic customers). "It's also better for business if you know your customers."

Adam has been in business a while.

He opened his stand - a wooden lawn table with a homemade sign that reads: "Adam's Snowballs" - in front of his family's home along Uniontown Road when he was 10, four summers ago.

He launched his enterprise with 10 flavors and today sells 23, including root beer, cherry, egg custard and strawberry.

Customers can choose marshmallow and chocolate toppings. His cones come in three sizes, 12, 16 and 24 ounces, and sell for $1, $1.25 and $1.75.

Almost every afternoon, he sets his ice machine and flavors on the table and waits under the shade of a tree for customers. When he's not making snowballs, he waves to passing motorists.

Adam's mother, Linda Knatz, encouraged him to open the stand.

"He gets bored pretty easily," she said. "His business has grown a lot."

Adam estimates he serves about 45 customers a day, and more than half of them return day after day. He figures he knows many of them by name, recognizes most by face and easily carries on conversation.

Uniontown neighbor Waverly Williams, 12, is one of his loyal customers. He holds the record for eating the most snowballs at one time, once devouring nine in three hours.

"I'm gonna buy 12 dollars' worth of snowballs tomorrow," Waverly boasted one recent afternoon.

While many children Adam's age use summer to relax, Adam spends six days a week running his stand. He's open from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

He closes on Monday because everyone needs a day of rest, he said.

"The only drawback is not being able to have a lazy summer," he said. "When everyone's at the pool, I can't just walk away. But I have a lot of fun doing this."

Besides working hard on the job, Adam has ambitious education plans. He graduated from New Windsor Middle School last month and will attend Francis Scott Key High School in the fall.

He's thinking about college, saving money to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he plans to major in computer science.

Adam declined to say just how much money he makes. Nor would he divulge who his suppliers are, concerned about competition.

When he's not selling snowballs, Adam enjoys computers and electronics and rides his bike. He's building a go-cart with a neighborhood friend.

Brenda Ranazzo, a new Uniontown resident, is among Adam's returning customers. She applauds his entrepreneurship and said her 11-year-old son has a great deal of respect for the veteran snowball stand owner.

"Adam is pointing my son in the right direction," Ranazzo said. "This kid really works his bottom off."

Adam's stand will not be around forever, however,

Next year will most likely be his last. He doubts his 11-year-old sister will take over. He wants to find another job. He's not sure what, but it won't be in the food business.

"A lot of teen-agers start out as waiters or waitresses," he said. "But, as you can see, I've already had my fill of the food business."

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