The neon sign on the Frosti Cones steel building blinks the letters O-P-E-N. The handmade deck and awning wrap around the pre-fabricated walls, creating a self-contained half ring in the corner of the Belton Summer Fun water park asphalt lot.
Paul Marguglio stands behind the counter, another round of his life in full swing. His friend Brian McKay works the shaved ice machine for a customer, as a recent warm front has driven up his business again.
McKay’s quiet and hardworking demeanor makes him the perfect partner to Marguglio, like a boxer’s corner man, ready to help and advise.
Although November isn’t the prime selling month for ice cream and snow cones, Marguglio is not discouraged. He’s a fighter.
“This was a spur-of-the moment idea. It was a risk and I took it,” he said. “It’s worked out for me.”
The shop sits just 1.5 miles from campus, and has become a choice destination for students looking to soothe their sweet tooth since it opened in May 2010.
“Good prices and good food; especially the Frosti Cone,” said sophomore business major Will Samford.
Marguglio comes from a strong Italian family in Philadelphia. He spent his youth learning how to work with his hands from his father and spending time in the kitchen with his mother.
But Marguglio found trouble in high school. Drinking led to drugs. The substance abuse got more frequent and more damaging. Thanks to his intuitive nature and friends in strong places, Marguglio found a good way to sustain his habit. He started selling.
He had enough. As an early 20-something he was addicted and depressed. His solution was a drastic one.
He drove as fast as he could on a dark road, reaching 100 miles per hour. He had learned to drive fast while pursuing an exhilarating hobby in racing.
This time, his speed was not to feel alive, but to face death quickly. He locked his arms on the steering wheel, ready to swerve head first into oncoming traffic. But he couldn’t.
“I wound up driving down
the road, and I came up to a church,” he said.
It was the same church his mother attended, and for some reason unknown to Marguglio, the doors were open, even though it was late at night.
“I walked down the center of the aisle and I sat down in the center of the pews. I started crying and asking God for help. A gentleman walked in the back of the church. I was so ashamed I couldn’t even lift my head to see who entered,” he said.“I didn’t care, even if it was the cops and I was going to jail. At that point it didn’t matter. I wanted to die.”
The visitor wasn’t a police officer, but a middle aged black man who had no left hand, but a hook in its place.
“The gentleman walked up to the end of the pew I was sitting in and called me by name. ‘Paulie, don’t worry about it. Things are going to get better.’”
Marguglio gets choked up when he recalls the incident. He decided at that moment to put himself in rehab. He went back to the church to find the man, but no one knew anyone fitting that description. Marguglio entered rehab to turn his life around.
Knocked down in the first round. He’s a fighter.
Marguglio left the east coast for Orlando, Fla. He worked for an animatronics company. As the economy fell, Florida was hit hard by the loss of tourism.
Marguglio lost his job. But he met McKay, who would lose his job later as well. Marguglio couldn’t find employment where he was, so he came to Texas.
“I couldn’t find enough work to keep me going here,” he said. “I got a phone call from a friend of mine from high school. His dad owns Summer Fun Water Park.”
Marguglio worked at the water park and quickly loved Belton. After working at the park, he asked if he could build an ice cream establishment on the lot of Summer Fun. He built the shop and started doing business.
“After opening up, I realized that people here like snow cones and they love the ice cream,” he said. “If I make it through this first winter, I should be OK. God has really blessed me.”
McKay joined him after losing his job in Florida too.
“It’s fun working here,” MaKay said. “I really enjoy meeting the people. Paulie has helped me out a lot.”
Customers also enjoy the shop and the treats it sells. The trademark desert is a Frosti Cone – one-half snow cone and one-half ice cream.
Winter seems like another big challenge, but Marguglio is not afraid to use his skills and to adapt to the fight again. He has a right hook of his own.
“I know how to cook pretty good. I watched both of my grandmothers and spent my time in the kitchen,” he said. “I’ve talked to a few people here and I think the answer is Philadelphia Cheese Steaks…. I know for a fact there are no good places around to get a good cheese steak.”