by Chad Campbell, senior producer
We completely lucked out on this one. Bob and Geoffrey were in a back room of Dr. Ben Springgate’s home, interviewing him about health care options for the disadvantaged in New Orleans and about the city’s overall health after Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill. I was on my cell phone in the kitchen, working out the details for our next interview of the day and hanging out with Ben’s wife Ashley and their infant daughter Avery. Someone had mentioned running a family snoball stand and as I asked Ashley more and more questions, it sounded like it could be a nice little interview. It turns out that Ashley runs Hansen’s Sno Bliz, a New Orleans tradition started by her grandparents seven decades ago.
Ashley’s grandfather Ernest was a master machinist who invented the first machine to shave ice in 1934. That machine is still on display in the shop and Ashley still uses her grandfather’s 2nd generation ice shaver made of cast-iron and stainless steel. Ashley’s grandmother Mary started the business in 1939 making her own flavored syrups, a tradition Ashley continues today, going so far as to use the very same bottles. Hansen’s has been in this location, at the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Bordeaux, since 1944 (click here to read more Hansen’s history).
The shop was closed for July 4th, but Ashley walked us to the back door of Hansen’s Sno Bliz. Inside the place looks much the same as it did in the 1950s, the 70s or the 90s. Several signs from several different decades state the Hansen motto: “There are no shortcuts to quality.” Photos of loyal customers line the walls. There’s an old sign that says “Air condition your tummy with a Hansen’s Sno-Bliz sundae.” And of course Ashley is using the same bottles and ice shaving machine that her grandparents did.
Here’s a movie of our snoballs being finished (at Hansen’s they put down a layer of ice, then syrup, then ice, then syrup, etc because the ice is chopped as fine as snowflakes) then the moment of truth as Bob samples his Limeade snoball.
Click here for Hansen’s online exhibit of articles, photographs, documents and memorabilia.
Click here to see pictures from our latest trip to southern Louisiana, including more pictures of Ashley, the machine and Hansen’s Sno Bliz.
They’re a seasonal operation, open generally from spring until fall. If you’re in town at the right time, stop on by and tell Ashley that Bob, Geoffrey and Chad sent you.