A Norman cold treat staple of more than two decades is undergoing a re-brand and adding new offerings as its owners looks toward a more expansive future.
Jennii and Adrian Buendia have co-owned Eskimo Sno, which started in 1999, since 2003 after buying the stand in the parking lot of the West Lindsey Street Homeland. Since then, the business has grown to operate in multiple locations across the OKC metro area, from stands to food trucks.
This year, the couple has begun a gradual transition from Eskimo Sno into their new Beanstalk Coffee & Snow brand, a journey that started with the opening of their storefront located at 3408 36th Ave. NW in March.
While the business' snow cone stands are seasonal, the couple feared their new store wouldn’t be able to operate all year without serving more than snow cones, and decided to add coffee to their menu, Jennii said.
“Neither my husband nor myself were coffee drinkers,” Jennii said. “We have been asked for years to serve coffee out of our stores and stands, and we were always like, ‘We don’t drink coffee.’”
Jennii said she realized there were no drive-thru coffee shops on the west side of I-35 in Norman, and thought they could take advantage of that.
In April 2019, Jennii went to the Texas Coffee School to receive a crash course on the business side of coffee. When she returned, she reached out to KLLR Coffee Roasters in Oklahoma City for product and assistance in finding the right equipment and vendors.
Along with bringing in coffee products, Jennii and Adrian also decided to give their snow cones a new look.
“We went from using a cubed ice machine to using a block ice machine, which makes the snow a lot finer and fluffier. It melts in your mouth,” Jennii said. “Instead of having four different sizes, we (now have two sizes) and we use a flower cup so they don’t spill as easily.”
After adding coffee to their menu, the Buendias felt that Eskimo Sno didn’t work as a brand any more, and wanted to make the brand their own with a new logo and name, Jennii said.
Jennii said she was brainstorming with an ex-employee, and as soon as he said the word "beanstalk," she knew she had a new name.
“I can build an entire store and think of the imagery of a beanstalk — everyone knows what a beanstalk looks like from ‘Jack and the Beanstalk,’” Jennii said. “It just seemed like a no-brainer, the association between coffee beans and snow up in the clouds — it just made sense.”
Jennii and Adrian opened new location as Beanstalk Coffee & Sno on March 23 right before many businesses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their original plan was to train their new staff over spring break and have a grand opening with their lobby operational, but the pandemic forced a change of plans.
As an essential business, they opened as a drive-thru only business, run by Adrian, Jennii and her sister.
Adrian said many families were out walking around earlier in the shutdown, which brought people from the surrounding neighborhoods like Cascade, Brookhaven and Castlerock to their store. Adrian and Jennii decided to allow foot traffic in the drive-thru due to the circumstances.
“We were blessed to be able to still serve the community on the west side,” Adrian said. “We were a little busier in the months of April and May before everything opened up on June 12 for the third phase of Reboot Norman, so opening up during this time actually helped us.”
The shop is now fully staffed and the lobby is open, which Jennii said provides a family-friendly atmosphere that is atypical from most coffee shops, where there are usually people studying, having business meetings or working.
“I wanted it to be a place that a mom could drop her older kids off at school and then come here with her younger children and meet up with other moms or other families, or kids coming after a baseball game at night for snow cones, and the parents can get coffee or tea,” Jennii said. “We want this to be an almost whimsical, fairytale-like, very open place where everyone feels welcome.”
The couple is still working on rebranding all of their locations to the Beanstalk Coffee & Sno brand, a process that will take place over the next few months.
Adrian said the couple plans to turn their Eskimo Sno location on 12th Ave. Northeast, which they have operated since 2006, into a 2,000-square-foot shop under the Beanstalk Coffee & Sno brand. The location will have both a drive-thru and lobby, similar to their west Norman location.
After the couple shuts down all of the Eskimo Sno stands after Labor Day — as they do annually because of the seasonal nature of the business — they hope to start renovations on the 12th Avenue shop and rebrand all their stands by the time they reopen in 2021.
But the renovations are just one of the couple's goals for the future.
“Even our food trucks, we have to figure that out,” Adrian said. “We are looking at selling all of our food trucks and getting a new Beanstalk Coffee and Sno food truck. Hopefully we can do all of that by spring of 2021.”
Follow me @JeffElkins12