How downtown Naperville got a shaved ice stand during a pandemic

If there were no COVID-19 pandemic, it's also likely there would be no shaved ice trailer in downtown Naperville.

Sno Problems was born out of the quarantine boredom of Naperville native Brittany Harriman, a shaved ice fan who missed the trailers, with names like Cowboy Corner and Trailer Trash Treatz, that are common around campus in her college town of Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Growing up unable to eat dairy, Harriman said, she and her family would travel to Tropical Sno in Western Springs, the closest place to get shaved ice as a summer treat. The kind she likes - and now sells at Sno Problems - is a step up from the typical snow cone.

"It's fluffy like snow. It melts in your mouth," she said. "It's definitely better."

So while passing the time during the stay-at-home order, Harriman said, she asked her mom if she could start her own shaved ice stand. The answer was a yes.

"We ran with it," she said.

She researched shaved ice production and business management, then hired several of her friends to staff the stand with her. This solved two problems, since she said many friends were unable to find jobs or internships as they would during a typical summer because of the pandemic.

The Naperville Central High School graduate, a junior at Oklahoma State University, now is co-owner of Sno Problems, along with her Naperville Central student brother, Trevor Harriman. The plan is for Trevor to continue running the stand on weekends when his older sister returns to Oklahoma to continue her studies in sports media.

Until then, Sno Problems - which opened Thursday - is scheduled to be open daily from noon to 11 p.m. at the corner of Webster Street and Aurora Avenue.

The property where the trailer stands is owned by Marquette Companies, which developed the Water Street District on the site, including a hotel, restaurants and shops. It's adjacent to the Naperville Municipal Center and across from the Naper Settlement.

Harriman said she was thrilled to score a downtown spot so customers can take their treats to-go.

"It seemed like a dream," she said about the downtown corner. "And we got it."

Nick Ryan, CEO of Marquette Companies, said the firm was "very impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit" of the Sno Problems founders and "loved that they were taking initiative to help provide jobs and a great summer amenity to Water Street."

A regular-sized shaved ice at Sno Problems runs $5, while a small is $3. There's a $1 upcharge for gourmet flavors.

Customers also can add flavored sweet creams, similar to coffee creamer, to their ice for a boost. There's sweet cream in Harriman's favorite, the "Dirty 630," which includes cappuccino and chocolate syrups topped with sweet cream and tastes like a mocha.

Sno Problems also will set itself apart with eco-friendly packaging and a commitment to donate a portion of proceeds to charities including Black Lives Matter and canine cancer organizations.

"We said, 'If we want to run a business, we want to do it our way - our moral way,'" Harriman said.

Starting a business wasn't exactly in the plans for Harriman, but she's embracing it, especially as Sno Problems launches on a holiday weekend during a string of 90-degree days in the middle of a pandemic.

"I just like challenging myself and entrepreneurship," Harriman said, "and I love being with people."

  Sno Problems, a shaved ice trailer in downtown Naperville, opened July 2 at the corner of Webster Street and Aurora Avenue. Brian Hill/
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