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History of Hansen’s Sno-Bliz

Hansen’s Sno-Bliz was first conceived during one typically hot New Orleans summer day during the Great Depression. Ernest Hansen and his older son were trying to cool off outside when a man pushing a snoball cart wheeled by. Ernest, although tempted by the frozen treat, disapproved of the lack of cleanliness of the operation as each snoball was shaved by hand from a large block of ice. Being a master machinist, he envisioned a machine that would hold and shave ice cleanly and safely. Ernest promptly set about building one, earning U.S. Patent 2515923.

His wife, Mary Hansen, a shrewd businesswoman and fantastic Italian cook, created her own line of syrups. In 1939 Hansen’s Sno-Bliz began serving its first snoballs under a Chinaball tree on the sidewalk outside of Mary’s mother’s house on St. Ann Street. Back then, a snoball was 2 cents, an exorbitant price for the time, and was served in a little cardboard tray. After a short time on Valmont Street, they moved to Hansen’s current location on Tchoupitoulas Street in 1944.

Over the years Hansen’s became a New Orleans tradition. People would bring their children in for their first snoball, and years later those children would bring their children. Fraternities and sororities would often order large trashcan sized Sno-Bliz for their parties. Hansen’s has often been listed among the top (if not the top) dessert restaurants in New Orleans.

In September 2005, just a few weeks after evacuating for Hurricane Katrina, Mary passed away at age 95. Ernest died the following March at age 94.

Hansen’s Sno-Bliz is now run by Ernest and Mary’s granddaughter, Ashley Hansen, who helped her grandparents run the shop since she was 12. She says she plans on continuing in the tradition of her grandparents by serving snoballs to generations of New Orleans families.

Explore more about the history of Hansen’s Sno-Bliz in the Sno-Bliz Online Exhibit.