Hansen's Sno-Bliz has been cooling the palates of Uptowners for 74 years, making it a standout alum of the old school New Orleans snoball stands. Ernst and Mary Hansen opened their eponymous stand just as American was emerging from the Depression in 1939, winning a loyal legion of devotees with their ever-popular cream of nectar and cream of chocolate flavors. Today, Ashley Hansen keeps up with her grandmother's flavor alchemy, mixing old mainstays with new inventions like ginger and cayenne or vanilla bean, and making sure that new generations of heat-oppressed families can make their summer afternoon pilgrimage to one of the original neighborhood snoball stands by shoveling an average of 1,600 pounds (!) of ice per week at peak season.
What are your busiest times of the year? Of an average week?
The summer is our peak time, and Sunday in particular is very busy for us. After kids go back to school in August, we get pretty slow. So from March to July, we're pretty busy.
Do certain flavors become more popular once it gets really hot outside?
Oh, definitely. Cream of nectar is always our most popular flavor, along with cream of chocolate. Then, once it starts getting hot, our citrus flavors like satsuma and lime take off.
Do you ever run out of certain flavors when you get really busy?
Occasionally yes, we do. We make everything fresh everyday, so a lot of times we can't restock as much as we like. My grandmother used to apologize all the time, and tell people, "I'm sorry! You should have come earlier." It's harder to get away with that at my age, but my grandmother got away with it all the time. We try to prepare enough for the day, and, since we only have one and a half refrigerators, we don't store a lot over night. We just try to make enough for the day, and then move on to the next day.
Hansen's has been a family business for quite a while. Do you hope that you'll kids will take up the mantle eventually?
I hope so. I have two kids and I hope they're interested in it the way I was with my grandparents.
There's definitely an old wave of snoball places and a new wave. Is it ever competitive? Do stands draw from beyond their neighborhoods, or is each stand basically just serving the people who live in close proximity?
I think it's still true today that when you grow up in a certain neighborhood, you still probably savor that neighborhood snoball stand because so many of your memories are tied into it. I don't really feel a sense of competitiveness with other stands because our sense of taste is so wrapped around our memories, too. When you taste a flavor and it brings you back to being seven-years-old, I think that's all part of living in New Orleans.
What's your favorite flavor?
My favorite changes every couple of months. Right now, we're making a homemade ginger-cayenne. I call it icy and spicy. It is so much fun to eat?I just love it. We also have a cardamom flavor, which we mix with one of grandmother's recipes like cream of nectar or blueberry. Then we have homemade vanilla bean, which I like to mix with my grandmother's almond. Some of the recipes are mine, some are my grandmother's, but I like to combine them because it's fun...and delicious, obviously.