The Controversy Over Little Jimmy's Pushcarts

Posted by Lilly on April 18, 2012 at 8:20 AM

Photo Credit: Little Jimmy's

When I was looking to start my business selling Italian Ice by pushcart, one of the first companies I came across was Little Jimmy's.  Actually, it was practically the only company I came across because they are very diligent about their online marketing.  So, like a lot of other people, I began researching what they offered.

They are primarily an Italian Ice wholesaler, doing business under the company name of Jersey Ice Corporation, out of Elizabeth, NJ.  But what they push hard online is their pushcart business packages.  They offer a number of packages.  Each package offers cart, Italian Ice, and supplies, and each package goes up in value.  Some packages will provide you a list of places and events in your area that you can vend, which helps you get selling faster.  Their prices for these packages can be found here.

One of the unique selling features of Little Jimmy's business packages is that they are one of a very small group of suppliers who offer a non-refrigerated pushcart.  This means that the cart has no electrical supply, no cold plate systems and no mechanical way to keep the Italian Ice cold.  So naturally, one of the first questions that pops into vendors' heads is how on earth the ice can stay frozen for many hours and especially on a hot day.  Some people will outright claim it can't be done and will call Little Jimmy's a fraud.  I searched for information myself as to whether, perhaps, there was some sort of scheme involved here.  But I write this blog post now in defense of Little Jimmy's.

First of all, they have been in business a very long time.  That's not an easy thing to do in any market, but especially in today's economic crisis, they are still riding high.  Secondly, a quick jaunt over to the Better Business Bureau will show that they actually have an A+ rating!  A+... I repeat.  When you account for the number of years they have been in business, and see an A+ rating, you have to realize they must be doing something right.  But the biggest controversy is about their carts, so let's get back to that.

How can a non-refrigerated cart keep ice cold, and why would anyone bother selling or buying one when other, seemingly superior carts are on the market?  Well, I don't believe it's a scam.  Non-refrigerated carts are how Italian Ice street selling all began. 

Benefit #1: Construction

Today's carts are built much better than in years past.  The insulation is thicker and made with denser yet lighter material, resulting in a cart that holds cold temperatures for a very long time.  Here is a perfect example to illustrate this idea.  If you were going to the beach one day, you could buy a cooler at Walmart that would keep your ice-packed food cold for a few hours, perfect for a midday lunch, snacks and beverages.  By the end of that beach trip, you would find a puddle inside your cooler.  With very little and very cheap insulation, it is not meant to hold cold temperatures for long.  Contrast that with a boating trip.  You instead buy a marine grade cooler that can keep your ice frozen for days.  Naturally, this cooler will be better made, with much better insulation, and at a higher cost.  But some of these coolers can keep ice frozen for up to 15 days!  Open that cooler at the end of your boating trip, and you will still find hard ice.  The same goes for Little Jimmy's pushcarts.  They're structurally engineered to hold Italian Ice at the proper temperature for many hours.

Benefit #2: Cost

Non-refrigerated pushcarts are the least expensive way for a vendor to get their business operational. No electrical components, no compressor, no built-in cold plates means no added cost.  No maintenance costs either, should those components go awry.  A non-refrigerated pushcart cost thousands of dollars less than electric or cold plate carts.

Benefit #3: Transportability

Add to those benefits that a Little Jimmy's pushcart can fit inside most minivans and, of course, any pickup truck!  You now have a way to get that cart around that didn't add any cost to your business startup, no car hitch purchase, no trailer, no additional license plate or trailer light kit, no added trailer insurance, and no parking issues.  You're in and you're out with a simple ramp to get the pushcart into your vehicle.

So what could be better than that triple whammy of cheap, light and easy to transport?  Not much when you're starting out.  A vendor with a Little Jimmy's non-refrigerated cart can make as much money on any given day as a vendor selling out of an expensive, heavy, unwieldy cold plate or electric cart.  He/She may have a few more headaches about managing the temperature of the ice when it's extremely hot and after many hours, but that is now easily managed with the use of either dry ice or, preferably, reusable (also called eutectic) Italian Ice cold plates, which are filled with liquid that maintains the necessary +10 to +15 degree range.  Problem solved.

Now, we could get into more scientific discussion of frozen products and ambient air, that hot air rises and cold air falls and that Italian Ice goes into a cart frozen, not at 32 degrees like water, but at 0 degrees and actually requires considerable warming up to serve it.  If you put Italian Ice into a cold plate cart when the ice is frozen and set the temperature of the cart to +10 or +15 (serving temp. of most Italian Ice), it would take a very long time for the ice to become scoopable.  So a non-refrigerated cart allows the ice to warm up faster.  As you scoop ice, the ambient warm air inside the cart will rise, keeping the top layer of Italian Ice at a great serving temperature.  As a vendor, you will learn all this through trial and error, but don't let the naysayers tell you it can't be done.  It has been done for many years, and it will continue to be done as more vendors realize the benefits of a cheaper, lighter, smaller and more mobile unit.

Categories: Pushcarts, Getting Started

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Reply Dawnmarie Heaton
3:52 AM on July 11, 2013 
Help on how to get licensed & health board
Reply Lilly
10:03 AM on July 12, 2013 
Dawnmarie, have you contacted your local health board yet? You can call or make an appointment for a personal visit (preferred), and they will walk you through what you need to do to be licensed in your area. Explain that you are interested in starting a mobile food operation with a non-potentially hazardous product (Italian Ice). They will guide you from there. Be sure to ask questions and check if they'll accept alternatives to their rules to make your business easier. Oftentimes, they will accomodate changes as long as you can show your methods will be safe to the public.
Reply Alona Robison
7:42 PM on October 15, 2013 
My husband and myself want to be able to retire and sell Ice at various events, ect. Our budget is not going to allow us to purchase from someone like Little Jimmys (they are great, we visited their business years ago) so is there a way to build a cart so that we can get started and then maybe we can purchase later or do you know of a supplier that has least expensive carts? Love your site by the way, so happy we found you. Oh, one other thing, we are in southern Calif and there is a company here called Mustache Mikes, do you know of them?
Reply Lilly
1:19 PM on October 16, 2013 
Hi, Alona. I think you may be able to make something work for you and your husband. I've found I could operate with only coolers. My blog posts go into more details on this inexpensive, quick-start option. Check with your local health department about whether they'll allow you to sell from equipment other than a cart. If so, I'm sure you can build your coolers into a cool cart. I will post some images in the photo gallery of carts just like this. As to Mustache Mike's, yes, I am familiar with their business. I believe they operate territories, similar to a franchise. Not sure of all their details, but there are pros and cons to both going with a big company and going on your own. I wish you the best of luck in making this tough decision, but it will all work out, I'm sure!
Reply Toni
9:45 PM on November 7, 2013 
Alana, try Magliones Italian Ice in Iselin, New Jersey. I think they are cheaper.
Reply Bernie Bonin
8:08 PM on June 6, 2016 
I have a little Jimmy's Italian Ice since 2008. I agree with you that Little Jimmy's carts are great. I had events that the temps were in the 90 degrees.
Using The 5 gallon cardboard containers work best. I have had multiple days that might ice lasted 7 hour or better.