“My grandmother used to sell snoballs on her front porch for two cents, when the going rate was only one cent,” Ashley Hansen told me as we sat in front of Hansen’s Sno-Bliz enjoying coffee “breakfast” snowballs. “When people asked why her’s were more expensive, she simply said, ‘they’re better than the others.'”
Ashley’s grandfather Ernest invented the Hansen’s ice machine back in 1934, but it was her grandmother Mary who put it to use. After selling snoballs out of their home for several years, Ashley’s grandparents opened up Hansen’s Sno-Bliz. At ages 95 and 94, they were still making snoballs almost daily.
“This is so much fun, I don’t really consider it a real job,” Ashley said of her work at the shop. “I started helping out when I was fifteen. I could never see myself not doing this.” Ashley now owns and operates her grandparents’ business and has kept up their tradition of getting to know their customers.
“I used to be shy, but my grandmother really pushed me to to serve and chat with customers,” Ashley said. “I used to say I was channeling Mary Hansen. She could talk at length to anyone.”
Today, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz is a New Orleans tradition. Pay Ashley a visit at the shop Tuesday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
20 Questions with Ashley Hansen
1. Who is your favorite New Orleanian, dead or alive, real or imagined?
This was really hard for me. If we’re going with imagined, I’d say Ignatius J. Reilly – he’d fit right in with my family and I like to think he would have visited the shop. But I really think that all my customers qualify for this. Some bring me bags of okra or homemade pasta. I have kids who’ve been coming in since they were babies and now they’re all grown up. Maybe it’s the sugar, but I just get a little choked up sometimes!
2. What first brought you to New Orleans?
I was born here. My twin sister and I were adopted through Catholic Charities, and we totally lucked out and ended up with a wonderful family in a wonderful city.
3. In your opinion – what’s the best neighborhood in New Orleans?
I grew up in Broadmoor, but I love my little spot Uptown on Tchoupitoulas now. Its nice little slice of life.
4. City Park or Audubon Park?
The Fly in Audubon Park – I love bringing people up there just to lounge. My kids love watching the boats go by.
5. Describe the best meal you’ve eaten in New Orleans?
I have two young kids, so my husband and I don’t get out a lot. But when we do, we like to walk around to some of our favorite neighborhood joints like La Petite Grocery and Patois. Recently, we got some appetizers at La Petite and then headed to Tipitina’s for some live music. It was the perfect evening.
6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?
Dante’s Kitchen. I call their grits “crack grits.” The chef uses half butter and half cream.
7. What’s your favorite po-boy? Where do you go to get it?
The oyster loaf at Domilise’s.
8. You’ve got friends visiting and it’s their first time in New Orleans – where are you taking them?
Casamento’s for oysters, for sure.
9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?
Cure – it always feels like a special occasion there.
10. What is your favorite New Orleans cocktail and where do you go to get it?
I love the Sazeracs and brandy milk punch at Commander’s Palace.
11. Snoball or Daiquiri? Where from and what flavor?
Snoball (obviously). Lately I’ve been hooked on ginger and pineapple flavors mixed together. I could eat that all day. I also love a classic nectar – simple syrup – and I like all my snowballs with condensed milk.
12. Best spot to see live music?
13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?
Art Neville, Ian Neville, Ivan Neville, or any Neville really! I also love Joe Krown – he played at my wedding and I see him at the stand sometimes. And Russell Batiste.
14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?
Jazz Fest – it’s just a big party and everyone’s invited.
15. Favorite Mardi Gras parade?
I love Proteus. The den is just down the street from my house. Every year, my kids and I will walk by and get to see the floats being transformed. What an art!
16. Where do you shop in New Orleans?
I love GoGo Jewelry on Magazine Street. They make these beautiful cuff bracelets that I love giving as special gifts.
17. What is your favorite New Orleans museum?
The Sculpture Garden in City Park.
18. Where do you go to watch The Saints play?
19. Describe New Orleans in one word.
Sweet. Once, Art Neville’s wife came in to the stand and got a nectar cream snowball for Dot Domilise because she wasn’t feeling well. New Orleanians do things for each other. Once in a while – someone will pay it forward in the shop and buy snowballs for everyone in line.
20. When was the last time you fell in love with New Orleans and why?
Every day at the stand. I love the diversity here in the New Orleans, and the stand represents that well, with a huge variety of ages and ethnicities. I like to think it matches the diversity of snoball flavors.