Feasting in the Falls business profiles: Colored Snow

For readers who may not be familiar, tell us a little bit about you and your business.

My name is Darby Imperi (formerly Bogden.) I started Colored Snow in July 2016 after finishing a business program in Bozeman. I’ve always loved getting shaved ice at events where it was offered but those were few and far between. I renovated an old motorcycle trailer and served the town of Cascade for the first few years and brought the trailer into Great Falls a few times in 2020. I wanted to reach the community on a larger scale than my trailer would provide. We opened Colored Snow at 426 Central Avenue on April 24th, 2021 and sell shaved ice year round. We currently offer 72 flavors, over 30 toppings and a number of specials. We introduced bubble waffles to the menu just a few weeks ago and might keep those year round as well! We’re open Monday through Thursday 4-7 p.m., Friday 4-8 p.m. and Saturday 1-8 p.m.. We will extend those house come summertime.

Feasting in the Falls 2022

What is one of your favorite things about operating a business in Great Falls?

The community support has been amazing. Our winters can be pretty cold here as we all know. Selling shaved ice year round was a risky decision but one that came easily to make after the support we received all summer. We’ve still seen lines out the door this winter and really love seeing the Great Falls community show up to support a local small business.

What is currently your biggest challenge as a business owner?

Competitive wages. It’s tough to lose employees when their reason is that another job can offer more. As a small business, we are more confined to what we can offer as wages but luckily we’ve had an amazing group of employees who are riding this challenge out with us.

What advice would you give to someone considering starting a business in Great Falls?

Market it well! Make sure to take advantage of the people you know for word of mouth advertising, social media, community requests/comments/suggestions. Reach out to the development authority if you need help getting started, they have great resources available to those who don’t know how to self start.

What is one way the community can help to support your business best (besides of course purchases)?

Sharing our facebook or instagram posts is huge! We’ve had a lot of new business come in simply from that act that people choose to do and it means a lot to us.

What was one of your favorite guest experiences?

I had a tik tok go viral and we had a few groups of people drive 4-8 hours to come check us out. I will never forget that!

What’s something people may not know, that you would like them to know about your business?

Colored Snow was completely self-started. It is not a franchise, it is completely and uniquely its own. The only one of it’s kind in the world. I was the sole creator of the menu, ordering process, and any changes to the shop, etc. My sister was the designer of the shop. We had full rights to create this space however we wanted it to be and can still make any changes necessary to meet our customers requests. I love that we have that flexibility rather than being tied into someone else’s strategies that wouldn’t work in our town.

What is something unique about your business?

I started in an un-air conditioned motorcycle trailer in 2016 and less than five years later had an entire storefront on the best street in downtown Great Falls. I think that’s pretty neat.

How do you think the food/drink scene has grown in recent years and what do you see for the future of that industry in Great Falls?

Specifically in downtown Great Falls, we’ve seen so many new food and bar businesses open up. Our downtown has dramatically changed in the last few years versus what it was when I was in high school. I think with those restaurants, venues, and events that are filling up the calendar, we will see an increase in visitors to our shop. The traffic count on the street we’re located on is through the roof and we’re able to take advantage of that simply because of the location we were able to score.

Anything else customers should know about supporting local food establishments during Restaurant Week and beyond?

After becoming a local business this last year, I’ve learned that us business owners put in a lot of time and energy into creating an amazing menu, training our staff, reaching the community and making sure people love our environment. Oftentimes, we’re putting in effort that we feel isn’t being received fully by the community and it’s tough. Specials are made for a certain week and few come in to try it, discounts are offered to bring in new customers but they’re not being taken advantage of. Use this week to explore new restaurants, try their new menu creations and save some money while doing so! It means a lot to all of us owners.