|Posted by Lilly on May 10, 2012 at 9:30 AM|
Photo Courtesy: Famous Italian Ices
If you've been researching startup up an Italian Ice pushcart business, you've likely encountered some Italian Ice wholesalers who, quite casually, advise you to simply rent cold storage in order to store their required pallet's worth purchase of Italian Ice. One supplier is even kind enough to send you a link to search out cold storage facilities in your area. And, while it all sounds easy and legitimate, since you're also informed this is how many vendors acquire and store product, the reality is this is a case of Buyer Beware!
What is Cold Storage?
Cold storage is much like self-storage in that you rent a unit, or open space in a warehouse, that is temperature controlled to keep large quantities of product frozen. For this service, you pay a monthly fee, and product can usually be delivered directly to the cold storage facility, even without you needing to be there. You can then access your product, as needed, for selling.
The Problems with Cold Storage
While cold storage is touted by some wholesalers as the answer to all your problems, it may actually create more problems than it solves. I understand many new Italian Ice vendors are anxious to begin selling Italian Ice and raking in sales. And others wish to offer authentic East Coast Italian Ice, though they may be located on the West Coast. So, for them, cold storage sounds ideal. But consider these concerns:
1. Finding Cold Storage
One problem with cold storage is simply finding a facility. This is easier said than done. Cold storage warehouses are not in abundance, even in larger cities. I live near Philly, and the closest one would be at least a 45-minute drive, one way. However, some locations with typically hot temperatures, like Southern Florida, do have cold storage facilities, even some convenient, small, self-storage like units that are affordable. But they're not widely available.
2. Is it Legal?
Another problem with cold storage is your local Health Department. Very few municipalities allow for the storage of food product at any other place than a commissary (licensed, commercial kitchen). If you choose this route, you may be doing it on the sly, and it's not advised. Check your local Health Department requirements on storing your Italian Ice.
3. Added Business Expense
If you're fortunate enough that your Health Department allows the use of cold storage, and you can find one, the next concern becomes the added cost to the business. Cold storage typically is not cheap, and you will have to factor that into your operating costs, as a recurring, monthly expense, that you will also have to pay during the off-season, if you have one.
4. Shipping Costs!
Perhaps the biggest problem with cold storage is that, by necessity, using it means you must not have or have yet found a local Italian Ice supplier. Only companies without distribution centers near you would require you to buy an entire pallet of Italian Ice and store it in cold storage. This means you now have yet another expense, that of shipping. One tub of Italian Ice is heavy. An entire pallet of Italian Ice is extremely heavy. And we're all familiar with gas prices going through the roof and rising daily. So, between the long distance, weight, and fuel, you can expect some exorbitant shipping costs. And, surely wholesalers aren't interested in making you aware of this business expense up front. They want you to buy as much ice as they can sell you. But many experienced Italian Ice vendors will tell you that shipping and storing your product will eat into your profits in such a big way as to make the business unviable long-term. These costs need to be factored into your numbers-crunching formulas to determine if your business can stay afloat, which of course is not the goal. The goal is to be wildly profitable.
But don't be discouraged. This doesn't mean that you can't still become an Italian Ice vendor. The solution, then, is to find a local wholesaler. The ideal situation is the supplier from which you can just pick up product at your convenience and in quantities that suit you, especially ideal in times when you're running unexpectedly low on ice and can't wait for delivery or shipping. Many small-batch Italian Ice operations are cropping up in all states as Italian Ice becomes more known, but you'll have to do extensive research and cold calling to locate them, as they don't yet have much presence on the Web. If you encounter another Italian Ice vendor in your area, chat them up! Find out their supplier. Also, some large Italian Ice suppliers have distribution centers or partners spread throughout the country, and you may reduce shipping fees by using them. At the very least, if you're unable to find suppliers near you, look for ones in neighboring states, to cut shipping costs as much as possible. Be sure to always ask what the minimum purchase requirement is from any supplier you're considering.
To get started on finding local Italian Ice suppliers, visit my Wholesalers page to find ones closest to you. You can browse the listings by state, and new ones are added regularly.
Here's your chance to vent! What has your experience looking for or using cold storage and/or long distance suppliers been?