The story of Hansen’s Sno-Bliz is the sort that New Orleanians love to tell. It involves a business built and sustained by three generations of one New Orleans family, it has a welcome post-Katrina happy ending despite some tragic twists, and its core narrative is all about sweetness. Ernest Hansen, a machinist by trade and an inveterate tinkerer, built his first Sno-Bliz ice-shaving machine in the 1930’s so that he could make sno-balls for his family. Soon enough his wife Mary parked the apparatus on the sidewalk beneath a Chinaball tree and began hawking freeform clouds of shaved ice drenched in homemade flavored syrups for two-cents a pop – a penny more than the going rate at the time.
The business moved several times over the years, eventually landing in the cinderblock building on Tchoupitoulas Street where so many New Orleanians find reprieve during the hottest months. Cream of nectar, cream of chocolate, spearmint, orangeade, and Ernest’s Own root beer – all made daily – are among the favorite syrup flavors, but for many customers the Hansens themselves are the main reason for patronizing the shop.
Ernest and Mary both passed away before they could return to the city post-Katrina. They had been married for 72 years. Their granddaughter, Ashley, who already had been working with them for nearly a decade, now runs the business. Ashley carries on Ernest and Mary’s warmth as well as their recipes.
Date of interview:
August 7, 2006