The shadows of the great depression clung to America in 1936, and a New Orleans neighborhood grocer was struggling to keep his business afloat. Noticing a gathering of customers at a nearby snow cone business, George J. Ortolano, son of Sicilian immigrants, was inspired to add this inexpensive treat to his grocery store to generate additional income.

George Ortolano proudly stands in front of his corner
grocery where he first used his SnoWizard machine
in 1936.
George, however, was resolved to create a machine that would produce a fine, fluffy shaven snow, similar to that made with blocks of ice and a hand-plane ice shaver. His efforts were successful and his subsequent invention of a simple but ingenious machine transformed blocks of ice used in the household icebox into mounds of delicate snow-like flakes, unlike the crunchy ice crystals from that snow cone machine.

Temporarily devoting his mechanical skills to the creation of ships during the Second World War, he acquainted other family members with his machine, who in turn introduced the product into their grocery stores. The tasty and unique concoction attracted a slow but steady stream of customers.

Drawing of the improved machine
titled the Ice Commando,as
shown in the lower left corner.
Regulars buying snow balls at the Ortolano’s grocery store became fascinated with George’s invention. He soon began receiving requests for the machine from those who wanted to start their own businesses. George set about to improve his early wooden machine design for commercial use and production. Incorporating knowledge gained through his shipyard experience, he began development of a new model built of galvanized metal. George needed a name for his invention and he considered many, one of which was the Ice Commando. However, he appropriately named 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.”

Blueprints drawn in 1948 of the new
and improved all metal Snow Wizard
Snow Ball machine.
As the demand for his Snow Wizard machine increased, so did the time that George invested in manufacturing them. He abandoned the grocery business soon thereafter to devote his full energies to the fledgling enterprise. Manufacturing most all of his machine parts by hand, George was compelled to automate production to keep apace with sales. Blueprints were drawn to standardize the parts and automate assembly, and stainless steel replaced the galvanized metal. His newly redesigned machine warranted a modernized distinct name, so the two words were combined and the letter “w” was removed. The birth of the New Orleans “SnoBall” evolved from his newly donned SnoWizard SnoBall Machine®. Unknowing to George at that time, he had given birth to a new industry that would gradually expand throughout the entire country and to other parts of the world.

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. Combining them with cream, “Mrs. O” soon came to be known as the “Queen of Cream” and the mother of famous New Orleans bestsellers including Nectar Cream, Ice Cream and Chocolate Cream SnoBalls. Josie passed in 2013 at the impressive age of 103. Click here to read her obituary and learn more about her.

In the Family Tradition

Continuing that commitment to excellence today is Ortolano’s nephew, Ronnie R. Sciortino, who joined the firm in 1981. Sciortino assumed full responsibility for the operation of the SnoWizard companies after his uncle’s retirement, and 45 years of dedication to the company. Renewing efforts to maintain the SnoWizard® reputation for quality and service, Sciortino improved and refined the basic machine and expanded the firm's fine line of flavoring concentrates.

Sciortino brought to the company 15 years of valuable experience in the New Orleans food service industry. His knowledge encompasses all facets of food service operations, from the executive chef position of several New Orleans premier food service establishments, to menu planning, building design, kitchen layout, and equipment development. A former vice-president of the New Orleans chapter of Food Services Executives Association and a member of the Institute of Food Technologists and National Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers, he enthusiastically carries on the family tradition begun over three quarters of a century ago.

This small firm, under his energetic leadership and dedication to excellence, has grown to become the unsurpassed leader in the shaved-ice industry.

SnoWizard® Today...


The SnoWizard® tradition continues today, with the geographic scope of SnoWizard SnoBall Machine® operators now flourishing nationwide and in numerous foreign countries in South America, Europe, the Mid-East and Australia.

SnoWizard® is your full service company, providing top quality products, information, and services necessary to establish and operate a viable SnoBall business, from our unparalleled ice shaving machine and over 150 exquisite flavorings, to all required supplies.

When you purchase your machine from SnoWizard®, you purchase a company supported by expertise derived from 80 years of knowledge and hands on experience; more than any one else in the business. You're more than just a sale to us, you're our customer, and we know the value of a satisfied customer. We're here to assist in making certain that your business is successful. Our knowledgeable and professional staff is always available to answer any question, anytime, and provide the correct answers. Your success is our success. The SnoWizard® management team stands ready to provide the necessary materials and guidance to assist all SnoWizard® operators in meeting or exceeding realistically established goals.