By Haylie Navarre | LSU Student
As summer lurks, lines are forming at area snowball stands in search of the cooling treat.
Jeff Gresse, owner of Sno-Man Snoballs, said it's not uncommon to have 15 or more customers waiting in line. The "Snoball" stand, located at 9534 Burbank Drive, Baton Rouge, is heading into the peak of its fifth season.
Snowballs and snow cones are commonly confused icy delights that differ based on the coarseness of the ice. Gresse's hometown of New Orleans is known for snowball ice less coarse, shaved ice, than snow cones of other locales.
Gresse said snowball stands can be found on every corner in his native city, but when he moved to Baton Rouge they were missing. "There really wasn't anywhere to get a good snowball." As a solution, Gresse opened Sno-Man Snoballs in June of 2008.
At the age of 20, with only two semesters at Baton Rouge Community College under his belt, Gresse began his endeavor. The entrepreneur cut his study in business management short to devote his attention to the business.
The customer base he's gained over the past five years has prompted Gresse to open an additional stand on Tiger Bend Road near Jones Creek Road. In the next two weeks, he also plans to add "Snoballs" to the menu at Splendido Frozen Yogurt Bar, 5263 Highland Road.
Gresse aims to create gourmet style snowball at Splendido, incorporating fresh fruit and the venue's own frozen yogurt. Customers will be have the option of stuffing their snowball with frozen yogurt, with optional toppings, much like the "stuffed Snoballs" made with ice cream at the Burbank location.
At the soon-to-open stand on Tiger Bend Road, Gresse's goal is consistency. "If you go to either location it's going to be the same product." He said both stands will be consistent with products and flavors. Gresse prides himself on making snowballs that, he says, are "juicy from the top to the bottom" with no ice left unsaturated.
Gresse and his staff make the ice that is shaved into Styrofoam cups to produce the snowballs. They also make the base of the syrups, adding special ingredients to enhance flavors. One of the more popular flavors, "snowman," was made in-house. Gresse said it was designed to taste like a petit four, a small French pastry.
After his first season with Sno-Man, Gresse was worried that the venture wasn't going to work out. He said the slow start could partially be attributed to road construction on Burbank Drive at the time. The following February, Gresse opened the stand earlier than other others in the city, distinguishing himself from the competition.
"I didn't look at it just as a snowball stand. I looked at it as a real business"
He's open, noon to 8 p.m., rain or shine, daily during the February to October season.
On an average weekend day, said Gresse, the stand will serve about 400 customers of all ages. Gresse's clientele spans the greater metro area of the city with some of the regulars traveling from as far as Walker or Prairieville.
"We bring people from pretty much every part of Baton Rouge."
Video Link: Watch how Jeff Gresse makes his snowballs. Credit: Haylie Navarre