INTERVIEW: Neesa Peterson of Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls

Post-Labor Day usually means that the summer is over for most of us, but hold up – it’s still hot in NYC, and let’s face it, any time of year is good for a cold tasty treat.  Sure, you could go for the typical ice cream, gelato, or popsicle, all of which come in endless variations all over this city – but why not go for a sno-ball?  Better yet, why don’t you try an Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Ball?

The little sno-ball shop started out as a pop-up shop last year and has found a home this summer right near Washington Square Park, on Macdougal Street.  They have also been at many events this summer, and we first heard of them at this summer’s Super (Duper) Market.

The adorable store is bright and happy and quirky, decorated with colorful pillows and Polaroid pictures, buzzing with a plethora of sno-ball flavors and also other popular New Orleans treats.  You can’t not smile in this place, especially with a sno-ball in hand – the sno-balls come in cute little Chinese takeout containers with spoons and straws, so you can drink your sno-ball after it melts.  Yum!  We ask the wonderful shop owner Neesa Peterson a few questions about Imperial Woodpecker and her experiences owning the sno-ball shop, which she graciously answers for us.

Couch Sessions: Why Sno-Balls?  Did you always know that you wanted to be in the dessert industry?  If not, what led you to your current venture?

Neesa Peterson: I have always had some sort of calling telling me to be in the dessert industry. Maybe it is just the giddy feeling I remember getting as a child getting a sno-ball, but I always thought to myself how fun my day would be if I worked in a dessert shop. It couldn’t be any kind of dessert though for me to be content. It had to be something that was unique and not introduced to the regional market yet. After working at Ford and Women Model Management, I had an epiphany that I wanted to bring people something they haven’t had before (or they had had before!) Since sno-cones are a nostalgic treat across America, and I already knew what a perfected one tasted like, why not introduce these deprived Northerners to a sno-ball! Snow cones are just not the same thing.

What are your favorite (and maybe even least favorite) things about your job?

My favorite part of my job is that sno-balls bring joy. Joy to me is one of the most amazing feelings we can experience and that I can produce joy in my shop makes me happy. My least favorite part is the crunching numbers part. One of the hardest parts is keeping up with all of the supplies going out and knowing when to order more. Also, scheduling my employees’ is pretty strenuous, as well. Having to balance everyone’s schedules is difficult since it is not your conventional job.

There are about 17 Sno-Ball flavors in your shop – which are the most popular and which is your personal favorite (mine is Arnold Palmer, though Tiger Blood sounds really enticing)?

Actually, we have 47 flavors. The most popular is Tiger Blood, which tastes like Strawberry Coconut. Also, Nectar Cream is the most popular out of the cream flavors. The cream flavors are the most special to me, as those are the ones made famous in New Orleans. I only ate the cream flavors growing up. One special I am doing these days is Spearmint Cream, which I am calling Oscar the Grouch. It is oh soooo good.

What are some of your favorite summer treats in NYC (besides Sno-Balls, of course!)?

Well, my dessert antennae are heightened in these summer months that’s for sure! I LOVE Victory Garden’s Goat Milk soft serve! I crave it! I also love the Apple Pie ice cream sundae at The Smith. That is to die for. A good old fashioned Coke icee is high on my list, as well, but I don’t even know where to find those anymore.

How would you compare living in New Orleans with living here in NYC, and why did you choose NYC?  What are some things you enjoy about living in NYC – what do you like to do here on your off-time?  

Well I only lived in New Orleans until I was 6 years old, but would get away with my mom as much as possible to get back there. I think living in New Orleans is a lot like living in NYC though. There are so many different neighborhoods in Nola much like New York. You can hang out in the gritty French Quarter then head to Magazine Street to shop. The endless amount of restaurants and people watching is very similar to life in NY. I love going to hear live music in my free time. I love walking by a bar and hearing something soulful coming out of the band then stopping in and staying a while. One of my favorite parts of living in New York.

What’s in the future for Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls?  Any big plans coming up – what’s happening after September?

We are closing September 24th, then I am thinking about heading down to Nola to take in all of the food/music/atmosphere in the winter time, then heading back to New York in time for sno-balls, Season 3!

Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls closes for the season on September 24th – Follow @ImperialSno on Twitter and then head over to 124 Macdougal Street ASAP to get your sno-ball fix before summer is officially over.  Don’t forget to say hi to Neesa!