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Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles highlighting historical places in North Augusta. If you have a suggestion for the series, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 803-279-2793.
One of North Augusta’s crown jewels has grown right along with the city while remaining consistent and rooted in the same place on West Avenue for 50 years and counting.
After years of research, Rachel Franklin, owner of the Sno-Cap Drive-In, said she successfully narrowed down the opening date of the Sno-Cap to April 1964.
Still, Franklin and her husband, Kenny, have always celebrated the anniversary in August, since it was Aug. 24, 1996, when they took over.
While preparing for the 50th anniversary celebration a couple of weeks ago, Franklin elaborated on the history of the Sno-Cap, as well as her vision for its future.
In the beginning
As Franklin hinted, information on the early days of the Sno-Cap is scarce. Still, the history of the restaurant knowingly dates back to 1964 when the original owner, Grant Hoyer, opened the doors of the restaurant.
From that era, Franklin has kept old menus and other items that reflect how prices have changed since the 1960s.
“If you look at the menu, you see that you could get a Big Burger all the way for $0.50; and back then, a gallon of gas was only $0.29,” she said. “So, it’s always been cool to me how different the times were back then.”
Other memorable prices at that time for the restaurant include a gallon of root beer for $0.90, a milkshake for $0.30 and the most expensive item on the menu, a fried chicken basket with fries, slaw and a roll for $1.25.
After eight years, Hoyer sold the Sno-Cap to Charles Terry in 1972.
Franklin described Terry as a well-known man in the community and as someone who had a deep passion for the Sno-Cap. During his time in charge, Franklin said the school kids always had a cool hangout.
“He really made this place feel like home for any customer who walked through the door,” she said.
After running the Sno-Cap for 22 years, Terry stepped down as owner, and Franklin saw an opportunity to assume leadership of the well-known establishment.
At the time, her husband was only her business partner, and the two teamed together to buy the Sno-Cap and officially opened for business on Aug. 24, 1996.
Franklin said the two kept the menu format and other things the same, but also changed up some things to suit a newer customer base.
One thing they started doing was throwing parties every year to celebrate the purchase.
“It’s always been a fun way to get the community involved,” Franklin said. “Kids and adults all have fun, and it’s great for business, so we’ve always enjoyed them.”
Perhaps the most memorable party, Franklin said, came in 2002.
Throughout that year, an ailing Terry started “living it up” and drank Sno-Cap milkshakes every day, she said.
Terry was honored at the anniversary party one Saturday in August, and after a night full of memories, he died the following Monday.
“We really believe he willed himself to attend that party,” Franklin said.
After a 14-year run, the Franklins sold the Sno-Cap in 2009 to open up their bed and breakfast, but eventually bought it back in 2011 and continued their tradition of throwing parties.
The Big 5-0
During the last week of August, Franklin continued the tradition of anniversary parties by celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Sno-Cap.
Usually, all of the events are squeezed into a day or two of activities. This year, Franklin literally and metaphorically spread the love by holding events from Aug. 23 through Aug. 30.
“It’s just easier and less stressful to do it that way instead of trying to fit everything into a tiny box,” she said.
On Aug. 23, the Sno-Cap held Customer Appreciation Day and also held a tribute to the CSRA Road Angels Car Club.
On Aug. 24, the restaurant held an Employee Reception during which employees over the past 50 years were invited to come visit.
Other events throughout the week included a bike night, kids night, and several other tributes to friends and supporters of the Sno-Cap.
Over the years, customers have always made it a point to write their names in an address book at the restaurant, which is another memento that gets revisited during the anniversaries.
Franklin said the whole experience reminds her of how many people from different states the Sno-Cap has served.
Other customer favorites during the reunion and throughout the year include purchasing Sno-Cap T-shirts; Franklin said more than 500 are sold per year.
“It’s always an exciting time and a great chance to see old faces from over the years,” she said. “And it’s never about the money. It’s a celebration of how historical this restaurant is.”
What the future holds
A teary-eyed Franklin said that, as much as she loves the Sno-Cap and the amazing legacy she’s been a part of, she knows her family’s position as owners can’t last forever.
“Our kids are grown up, and they’ve moved from the area. So I know, at some point, we’d want to be closer to them; and there are just other things we want to be able to do, as well,” she said.
Franklin hopes to pass the Sno-Cap on to someone who will continue to preserve its history and show respect for the heritage it has in North Augusta.
People always ask if its for sale, and the answer is “yes,” Franklin said.
“We know that we can’t keep the momentum up forever; there’s always someone younger and hungry looking for this great opportunity,” she said.
As she’s experienced, Franklin believes the opportunities to host birthday parties, anniversaries and other events are endless.
While she knows the Sno-Cap would be a great purchase, she readily admitted that it isn’t necessarily a livelihood, but rather a business for which someone would have to be passionate about.
“We hope, with the coming of Project Jackson and other signs of growth, someone will want to buy it,” she added. “It’s an amazing place and has been a part of this community for such a long time.”