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BY ALLIE DAVISON | Wharton High
After Hurricane Katrina forced her parents to relocate from New Orleans to Tampa, Nicole Hair followed them, but realized something very important from her Mardi Gras city was missing in her new hometown. She and her husband, Mike, opened Roux’s New Orleans Style SnoBalls, at 19651 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in New Tampa, to fill that void. • Snoballs, for the uninitiated, are not snow cones. Snoballs are made with a special machine that shaves the ice, instead of crushing it. Roux’s Facebook page clarifies: A snoball is as different from a snow cone “as cotton candy is from taffy.” • tb-two* recently talked with the ice master herself, Nicole Hair.
How did you find your way to Tampa?
It started with my parents, who lost their home in Katrina. They had looked at different places and fell in love with Tampa. So they moved here. At the time, my husband and I both worked for the government; we’ve lived all over and we would come here to visit. As soon as we could get transferred down to this area, we did.
How did Roux’s come about?
Getting here and realizing one of our favorite things from New Orleans was not here. I grew up there; they have snoball stands everywhere. They are in people’s garages, back yards, on the side of the street, little shacks. It was something that was really missing. A nice place to go to get a treat that was fairly inexpensive, that was tasty and that was different.
The shop is bright and colorful, very child friendly. Why do you think teenagers are so attracted to it?
A couple things. The product is good. The flavors are unique. You have your basic flavors, blueberry, cherry, but we also have red velvet cake, we have mango, Tiger Blood. Then we go into creams, which we make here, chocolates, cafe au laits, which are nothing like anybody has had on ice before. Once you taste it, you fall in love with it.
Is all the equipment authentic from Louisiana?
Yes. Our shave machine is from New Orleans, our ice block maker is from New Orleans. We make our own blocks of ice here and then move them into a freezer.
Have people from Louisiana stopped in?
Oh yeah. When they hear we have a snoball stand here, they will call and ask if it is a “real” snoball. I tell them they won’t be disappointed. Some have driven an hour (or more) to try them.
Like your parents, have you found other Katrina victims, longing for a taste of home?
Absolutely. It has been hard for all of us. Even though I had already left, that was still home. We knew there were a lot of people here, we knew there were a lot of transplants here, but having opened, we have found there are a lot more than we have imagined.
Roux’s is a feel-good story.
I knew how much I missed it. Now I get to see (the happiness) not only with people from Louisiana, but the Tampa community enjoying it as much as we do.
Photo: When Nicole Hair came to Tampa from New Orleans she really missed snoballs. So she and her husband, Mike, opened their own snoball spot: Roux’s New Orleans Style SnoBalls in New Tampa. By EMILY BROADDUS, Wharton High.