I’ll eat a cherry on the way home every night. I make a sno-ball and check the ice in the machines and eat it and see, because I sharpen the blades about every two weeks and I’m testing to see how the blade sharpens.
1823 Metairie Road
Metairie, LA 70005
Steven Bel was 8 years old when he started working at Sal’s Sno-Balls, the neighborhood stand that “Mr. Sal” Talluto opened half a block from Steven’s family home in 1959. Steven met his future wife, Gretchen, there when they were both just 11. By the time he was 17, he had started his own ice-delivery business with Sal’s as one of his clients. At 25, he bought the place. Until recently, Steven worked full-time for Continental Airlines as well as running Sal’s. His sno-ball business increased so drastically after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, however, that he retired from the airline and devoted all of his energies to Sal’s. Steven has several theories for the post-Katrina spike in sno-ball sales. Whatever the reason, he and his employees shave roughly 1,000 pounds of ice daily during sno-ball season (March through October). He drives 30 miles roundtrip every other day to fetch the ice in 300-pound-blocks from Cristina Ice Service in Marrero because, he says, Cristina’s ice is softer than other commercially available ice. And when passed through a New-Orleans-style ice-shaving machine, soft ice produces the lightest—and most readily packed—sno. Steven still uses some of Mr. Sal’s original syrup recipes. Flavors like Joker, Sock-It-To-Me, and Crème de Menthe are relics from his era.
Date of interview: May 3, 2011Interviewer: Sara RoahenPhotographer: Sara Roahen