Story by Nina Greenplate | Photography by Ruthe Ritterbeck
Chris Sudduth loves being a local. His business and his art mesh nicely, all for the joy that it brings to him and the lucky one who comes through his door.
He has called Hilton Head Island his home since 2009 and opened “Sno Cones by Chris” on Palmetto Bay Marina just four years later.
“Even on a bad day, I am happy to be here,” he says.
Sudduth’s grateful enthusiasm is unmistakable, and customers are greeted with more than just tasty treats.
Sudduth is gifted in the art of Legos, and his shop is a showcase of his talented and whimsical work.
“When I opened, I had around 20 to 25 pieces,” he says. “Now, there are several hundred.”
Countless two-dimensional Lego portraits hang, showing famous actors, landscapes and fictional film characters.
Some examples include Marilyn Monroe, The Harbour Town Lighthouse, Bob Marley, Audrey Hepburn, the Hulk, and even Sudduth’s self-portrait.
Three-dimensional historic pieces and familiar landmarks are a sight to see. The Statue of Liberty, The Twin Towers, Empire State Building, World Trade Center, and the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), are all built to scale. One of Sudduth’s first, and continually evolving, pieces is the Titanic.
“Since the 1997 movie, I’ve been working on and off of it,” he says. “I’m always making changes to perfect it.”
Larger and more realistic smokestacks are his most recent additions to the ill-fated ship. Lady Liberty was Sudduth’s second creation. Currently, he is adding windows to the Cape Hatteras and Hunting Island Lighthouses.
Sudduth created a surprising optical illusion showing Darth Vader’s Lego head shot when viewing the piece from its right side. As you move to the left, it morphs into Anakin Skywalker.
An entertaining collection of more than 30 animated Lego pieces is also on display. Watch Cookie Monster dreaming of cookies, Pegasus flying, flowers dancing, a pair of red sneakers toe-tapping, dolphins diving, a fan blowing; chicks popping out of their egg shells, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley’s car flying around the Whomping Willow Tree. The list goes on and on.
His work is for sale, with flat pieces easily able to ship. 3-D and animated pieces are not able to be packaged for delivery because they are delicate to handle and are never glued.
“I wanted to do something a little different and make a place where people can come and look at and appreciate things that I have made,” he says. “When waiting for their snow cone, they have something to be entertained by.” Indeed.
Let’s not forget the snow cones. Surprised that there were no such shops when he moved here, Sudduth decided to put his love for them into a perfected passion. He serves 37 homemade, never store-bought, flavors. Ten are dye-free, and all are allergen friendly, without dairy, eggs, nuts or high fructose corn syrup. He also freezes his own ice in cubed trays because shaving small blocks is a better way to hold his yummy flavors than bagged ice.
“When I was a kid in Maryland, I’d always go to a great snow-cone stand, and there was always a line,” he says. “I think I’ve perfected the way to make them taste the way they’re supposed to.”
His marina shop is open from Easter through Labor Day, but in the off-season he is available for mobile parties and events.
One of the best snow-cone compliments Sudduth ever received came from a Maryland family who had also been a fan of his hometown shop. As this was Sudduth’s inspiration, their insistence that his cones were better brought a smile to his face.
“You’re chasing this dream of being as good as someone you’ve admired your whole life,” he says. “And they say, ‘Yours are better.’ That’s the best compliment.” Sudduth feels like he’s found his “calling” with his shop.
“I’m willing to put the time in and to perfect my (Lego) art, as well as make the best snow cones ever,” he said.