As a young girl, Jeff Wiggs’ mother would rush outside when it first snowed. Her hands would dive into the fresh powder to scoop up her simple version of a snow cone right there. As Phoenicians, our closest option to that kind of nature-brewed treat is two hours away. So why not try one a little closer? Wiggs’ shop, New Orleans Sno Ball, is more elaborate than his mom’s version, but it still has a sweet charm.
The career path of the Air Force veteran and former bar manager certainly did not seem to head in the direction of shaved ice and syrup. But when the previous owner, Abron Morgan, planned to close the Sno Ball, Wiggs jumped at the opportunity to take over.
“I wanted to find something for me,” Wiggs says. “I knew what a sno ball was, but I just couldn’t find it out here. And then I found this, and I ran with it.”
The Sno Ball allows Wiggs to get his creative juices, or syrups, flowing. He keeps a little black book of all his flavor combinations, and while his menu board lists about 50 options to choose from, he says the real number is close to 306. He offers the standard flavors, such as cherry, piña colada and lime, but it is with his unique combinations where things start to get interesting: silver fox, wedding cake, orchid cream vanilla, and tiger’s blood, just to name a few.
Lynne Schroeder, a dedicated customer, has her own methods for enjoying her sno balls. “I buy two or three at a time and I put them in the freezer and they hold up really well,” she says.
These interesting flavors are common to all sno ball establishments. In New Orleans, Wiggs says sno ball shops are as ubiquitous as Starbucks. “How you distinguish yourself between sno ball shops is how you make the syrup. The ratio of sugar to water to whatever else you want to put in it is your garden secret,” he says.
Wiggs’ secret for his following lies in his values. His father, a minister, taught him the importance of generosity and got him into charity work at a young age. Now he donates his time and treats to local elementary schools such as Madison Roselane, city favorites such as the Phoenix Suns, and local foundations such as the 100 Club, an organization devoted to aiding the families of law enforcement officers, firefighters and their families. By doing this, Wiggs says, “the charity wins, and I win because I’ve exposed myself to a bunch of people.”
As for the everyday customers, they win too. Located at the corner of Bethany Home Road and Seventh Avenue, Wiggs’ business is a prime community location.
“I run this like a neighborhood shop. The parents come in, the kids come in. They all know me,” Wiggs says.
Staci Csizmadia is a new customer to the Sno Ball, but is already impressed with Wiggs’ service.
“He’s so personal, (and) he’s funny,” she says. “And he seems to pick up on his clientele very easily. He’s like ‘Oh, welcome back.’”
It is this kind of customer service that has made Wiggs a success. In the one year since he took over New Orleans Sno Ball, he has completely transformed it. Now he is ready to expand.
“Sno cones and hookah. Flavors and flavors,” Wiggs says, describing his newest business venture. Opening in the beginning of September right next to the Sno Ball, Fire and Ice will offer hookah, sno balls, ice cream, colored popcorn, vintage candy, local artists and musicians. A special concoction served there will be a combination of ice cream and sno balls, stacked on top of one another in a colored glass, with syrup drizzled on top and finished off with whipped cream.
Wiggs believes the place will be a hit because the tastes will be one of a kind. Mixing the taste of sweet treats and the scent hookah flavors creates a unique experience. “You can come here and say, ‘I want a strawberry ice cream, lemon, honey almond, grape soda. And I’ll be like, ‘Be right back. Not a problem.’”
His adventurous spirit and creativity have led Wiggs to the place he is now, and he encourages others to do the same by taking risks.
“You got to go up there, do your study, do your research and pull the trigger,” he says. “You can do what you set your mind to do.”
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