May 30, 2019 12:26PM
By Tom McCauley
Adam Backora started slinging snow cones and cotton candy at twelve years old. From his late grandfather, whose words often filtered down to him through the memories of other vendors, Backora learned such valuable bits of wisdom as “If you can cut across a row of seats, do it as close to the field as possible, so people can see you.”
His company, Sno-Floss, began in 1959 under the auspices of his maternal grandparents, Duane and Marcy Madison. Ever since, Sno-Floss has been serving sweet-toothed fans at the College World Series. They’ve become a staple of local minor-league and semi-professional teams: the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Omaha Beef, and the Omaha Lancers. They even work the Shrine Circus.
Baseball will always be his favorite, though, both personally and from a business perspective.
“When it’s a beautiful day out there, people come out to the ballpark, everyone’s having a good time. We do the best business then,” Backora says. “Those are also the best games for me, because it’s nice being outside, getting exercise. And watching baseball!”
The job can be quite physically demanding. A few years ago, Backora wore a Fitbit to track the number of steps he took during a CWS game.
“I think I did about 14,000 steps and 83 flights of stairs. I’m 36 now and I don’t think much of it, because I’ve been doing it all my life, but when I actually saw those numbers, I was like, ‘Oh wow. Maybe I’m in better shape than I think I am.’”
Fitness helps, but to really be a success in the vending business, you have to be outgoing, polite, and able to make eye contact all the time.
“Not everyone has their hand straight up in the air with money going ‘I want one I want one!’” Backora says. “Some people just slightly raise their hand, and you gotta notice stuff like that. You can’t be looking at the stairs.”
You also have to be friendly.
“No one wants a grumpy cotton candy person. Give a little kid cotton candy with a frown, it just doesn’t seem right.”
And you have to be a little fearless.
“I’ve almost been hit by multiple objects: a baseball bat, multiple baseballs. That’s always kind of exciting.”
The craziest thing he’s ever seen from the stands?
“You know, I always miss the streakers. Usually those happen later in games, after I’m done.”
Although Bakora famously wears a jersey proclaiming himself the Candyman, he did not give himself the moniker. His grandfather, Duane, was the original Candyman. To commemorate the last year of operations at Rosenblatt Stadium in 2010, Backora and his uncle printed up a batch of baseball jerseys to wear during their shifts. When he showed up to Center Trophy (his family’s other business) to retrieve the new jerseys, he noticed “Candyman” printed across the back. His grandmother, who was working there that day, was moved. Duane had died in 1996.
“She teared up a little because it kind of reminded her of him,” Backora says.
Four years ago, to commemorate his twentieth year on the job, Backora had the sleeve of his jersey embroidered “Dedicated to Duane Madison.” Just like his grandfather’s advice, the words move with him up and down the aisles at every game.
This article was printed in the June 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.