ELSA — Less than a year ago, the owners of Iced Cube raspa stand and their two young children were moving the single mattress they owned from one home to another after being evicted from a house they could no longer afford.
At the time, Johnathan Segura, 28, a former oil field worker and his wife, Ashley Vasquez, 27, had a little less than $2,000 to their name.
“When we say we started from the bottom, we mean the very bottom,” Vazquez said, lounging inside Iced Cube raspa stand in Elsa, unfazed by the 15-car line outside of her business.
That’s “pretty much the norm now,” she said of the long line of cars. They even had to switch locations since at the first location the lines sometimes blocked traffic. The new location is covered in an elaborate mural featuring celebrities such as Drake, Tupac and, of course, Ice Cube.
Now, in an effort to “not forget where (they) came from,” the raspa stand is offering five $500 scholarships to local students.
The $2,500 is over $500 more than they had when they first opened 10 months ago, and the college-age students of the area are the ones they credit for their overwhelming success.
“The reason we are where we are is because we did go viral on Twitter, and they did share our stuff, and they do come out from McAllen, and if people want to badmouth us they’re the first to defend us,” Vasquez said. “We just want to show our appreciation. We hope it continues and we hope to keep giving back.”
It all began June 1, 2017, when they invested the little money that they had into the raspa stand. As soon as they started “adulting,” they knew they “wanted to have something of their own,” Vasquez said.
The one employee they had, Joseph Segura (Johnathan Segura’s nephew) wasn’t even getting paid at first. The 23-year-old would work mostly as a favor, occasionally compensated with a free meal.
“We didn’t sleep that summer,” Vasquez said. “We would work 16-hour shifts and make about $200 on a good day.”
As the stand was beginning to take on its identity, Vasquez decided she wanted to take advantage of a previously untapped resource: social media.
In July, she posted an image of a specialty raspa called “Views” — the title of a Drake album — on Twitter and the post went viral. Soon, young people from around the Valley, and sometimes even as far as San Antonio or Corpus Christi, started flocking to the raspa stand to try the different snacks they’d seen on social media.
According to Segura, about 80 percent of their clients are not from Elsa. Customers rarely order “flats,” they said. Most come asking for whatever extravagant concoction the couple posted on Twitter that day.
“People are crazy,” Segura said, his hands stained red from handling raspa syrup. Every raspa has to be picture-perfect. As Segura tells his workers: “If it’s not Instagram-worthy, it’s not done right.”
He said most people ask for Hot Cheetos on their raspas now, and most of them require two inserted paper plates to hold the contents of the snack.
Hot Cheeto-covered turkey legs, a “snowman” with Hot Cheeto eyes and arms are among the other unorthodox snack options that can be ordered on request.
But, of course, whenever that customer leaves with their unique raspa, they snap a picture of it as well.
“It’s free advertising,” Vasquez said. “That’s why we cater to the younger crowd; they’re the ones with Instagrams and Snapchats who share our stuff.”
Now, it’s not uncommon for them to make upward of $1,000 a day. The one employee they started with, Joseph Segura, was able to purchase his first car earlier this year and the business now employs more than 10 people.
“One of the biggest perks is that at this point we get to employ so many people because at one point we didn’t even have jobs,” Vasquez said. “That’s the best feeling; being able to give back.”
Those interested in applying to the scholarship will need to stop by the raspa stand and meet the owners when they pick up an application. They will be asked to fill out a form with their basic information and to submit a short essay. The deadline for the applications is June 1.
They said they’re looking for applicants that “got that hustle in them,” among other redeeming qualities.
“This our way of showing our appreciation,” Segura said.