Thursday, July 5, 2007

Sno-Balls keep New Orleanians cool

New Orleans has plenty of HOT days, May through September, so there's a great need for cool drinks, freezes, and snow cones - New Orleans' version of Italian ices.

Sno-Wizard was invented by George J. Ortolano, son of Sicilian immigrants after the Great Depression. The neighborhood grocer had been struggling to keep his business afloat when he was inspired to make icey treats.

Ortolano built a wooden machine to produce a fine, fluffy shaven snow, similar to that made with blocks of ice and a hand-plane ice shaver. He started getting requests for the machine to start other new businesses.

Incorporating know-how from his shipyard days, Ortolano began working on a new model built of galvanized metal. Ortolano called his invention the Snow-Wizard Snow-Ball Machine because he said it was "like magic the way it turned blocks of ice into fine, fluffy snow."

He gave up the grocery business to devote his full energies to the fledgling enterprise. Manufacturing most all of his machine parts by hand, George automated production to keep pace with sales. Blueprints were drawn to standardize the parts and automate assembly, and stainless steel replaced the galvanized metal.

Assisting George in promoting his innovative enterprise was his wife Josie. She experimented using the assortment of extracts and flavorings in their grocery store to create new and unusual flavors for his "magic" snow.

Sno-Wizard Sno Ball is at 4001 Magazine Street, Uptown New Orleans.

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