My Custom Hand Sink

Posted by Lilly on June 30, 2014 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (12)

One year ago, I wrote a blog post about the Awesomest Hand Sink for selling Italian Ice, which I was having custom crafted to finally become compliant with my Health Department's hand sink rule.  What I completely forgot to do was update you guys and show you the photos of the sink and how perfect it is for those vendors looking for NSF equipment who want a portable sink that doesn't need electricity.  This is a one-of-a-kind!


  • Uses the Coleman Hot Water On Demand unit - this means I don't need to find buy separate little parts, such as pump, water heater, and propane tank.  Nor do I have to become a plumber and figure how to put those parts together!  The Hot H2O On Demand is a single, portable unit that comes complete with a rechargeable battery, charger, pump, faucet, and 5-gallon clean water tank.  All I needed to buy in addition was a few mini-propane canisters (found at Big Box stores, virtually everywhere for roughly $3 each) and a 6-gallon dirty water tank for $10 (also called gray water tank).

  • Easily pushable on four casters - perfect for getting on and off loading ramps.
  • Weighs only 60 lbs. empty.
  • Has a shelf for extra supplies, like paper towels.  Also has front door with magnetic close, so you don't see all the guts.  Nice for presentation.  Makes my setup look very professional!
  • Fits in my SUV, and also on my cargo trailer with ease! - measures only 22" W x 22" L x 36" H.
  • NSF Rated
  • Needs NO electricity!

It's the ONLY existing hand sink made to use with the Coleman Hot H2O On Demand that is ready to go!  It's the quickest option for those needing only a hand sink, who don't want to build their own or don't want to be dependent on electricity.  While it's not cheap, being all steel, it's the answer for those Health Departments who mandate NSF equipment.  And the price is right in line with other stainless steel sinks sold on the market - all much larger, heavier and electricity-dependent.

Now, for the reveal!  Here are the photos of my sink!  For me, it was the long-lost piece in a puzzle I'd been working on for a year and half... and an answer to my prayers.  Give me your thoughts in the comments! 


Do You Need a Food Handler's Permit?

Posted by Lilly on January 31, 2013 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the sweetest statements you will ever read begins like this: "[Such and such] is pleased to inform you that you have been approved...".  And so began the lettter I received yesterday from my Health Department informing me that I had been approved as a retail food entity within my county.  The only part left of this 2-step licensing process will be to have my pushcart physically inspected for compliance in early Spring.

However, the Health Department is rarely so benevolent or devoid of restrictions.  It turns out, on page two of the letter, that my approval is conditional.  Most of the conditions are easy enough to abide by.  They are:

  • My establishment license is for take-out only. (This one is kind of laughable since I'm mobile.  Can you imagine a mobile sit-down restaurant?  An RV, perhaps?)
  • There is no seating or eating permitted in the food establishment (thankfully, that doesn't pertain to me, personally, as I fully intend to sit AND eat while I run my cart!)
  • My plans are approved without a food preparation sink. (And thank heavens for that!)
  • Retail sales only - no food preparation is permitted.
  • A full-time certified food handler is required within 6 months of establishment's opening date. (Wait.  Hold on.  What!?)

I was a bit surprised by that last one, since it was the first mention that I might need to obtain what is known as a Food Handler's Permit.  Here's what I learned and what you need to know about this often-required certification/permit.

What is it?

It is yet another permit that you may be required to obtain before you can begin selling Italian Ice.  This certificate shows the Health Department that you, or one of your workers, has had formal instruction in proper methods to ensure that you won't get your customers or employees sick via unclean hand or utensil washing, improper serving practices, poor food handling and a host of other ways. 

Course & Testing

The course will go over the correct, hygienic ways to wash your hands, sanitize your utensils and other serving equipment, as well as how to properly serve your customers their food.  It will go over safe food temperatures and avoidance of cross contamination.  You will learn the hows and whys of working with and serving food, not that Italian Ice carries many inherent dangers, but worker practices can contribute to contamination.  Here is a list of topics covered in the course: 

  • Food Safety Awareness
  • Foodborne Illnesses
  • Food Safety Hazards
  • How Food Becomes Unsafe
  • Potentially Hazardous Foods
  • Proper Food Handler Hygiene
  • Potential Health Issues
  • Handling Ready-to-Eat Foods
  • Cross-Contamination
  • Time-Temperature Control
  • Storing Food Safely
  • Safe Food Preparation
  • Cooling and Reheating
  • Cleaning and Sanitizing 

Upon completion of the course, you will take a test.  If you successfully pass the test, you'll be given your permit to then take to your local Health Department as part of their licensing procedure.  Certification can last anywhere from one to five years, depending on your Health Department rules, at which time you will need to retake the course and exam to be recertified.  It's important to realize that, though the Health Department requires this permit, you will be financially responsible to cover all class and the testing fees.  Again, depending on your Health Department's rules, you may have to get more than one person in your Italian Ice operation certified as a Food Handler, and one certified person will likely be required on-site for every shift of work.

Where to get it?

So how do you go about starting this process?  Well, first go to your own Health Department and inquire about whether you need this permit at all.  If you can convince them that you sell no potentially hazardous food, you might not need to obtain this certificate.  But if you do, your Health Department will provide you a list of course locations or certified trainers.


So what if you get your Food Handler's permit in your own county, but you later want to attend an event on the other side of your state?  Would you be required to get another Food Handler's permit for that specific county?  Don't assume that you would automatically be able to enter that other event.  This is where you need to educate yourself about reciprocity.  Simply stated, reciprocity means that the approved food handler's permit you hold may be accepted by other Health Department jurisdictions and locales.  If so, no additional permit would be required.  Some states do have statewide reciprocity (Texas, for instance).  And other states are toying with the idea.  However, it is uncertain whether all states do, so you'll need to make a call to your local Health Department.

What to Watch Out For

There are many online commercial courses and testing sites that would love for you to buy their courses, only for you to find out later that they are not authorized or accepted by your local Health Department.  This is why, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it's so important to go to your own Health Department first and get their list of accredited trainers and course locations.


Finally there's this lovely thing called an exemption, also called a waiver.  It's not offered by all Health Departments, but it's always worth a try.  By requesting and filling out a simple form, you can ask that you and your Italian Ice workers be exempt from having to obtain the Food Handler's permit.  If you can show why you shouldn't have to get this permit, usually because you don't sell any potentially hazardous foods or that you can implement safe alternative practices, you may be able to avoid all this and just get selling!  Be sure to ask your HD for this possibility, as they usually won't just offer it to you.

Here's your chance to share your knowledge with us.  Have you found that your county, town, or state requires a Food Handler's Permit, or had you even known about this before?  What are some ways you can get around it?  Some vendors just need to have more than one disher on board their cart, extra dishers and/or must wear gloves while serving to avoid the permit. 

My Health Department's Present to Me!

Posted by Lilly on December 27, 2012 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (2)


If you've followed this blog, you know that I've experienced a number of hurdles when it's come to my local health department and getting my coveted license.  If you haven't followed along, a quick synopsis goes like this: got HD pre-approval for my cart this past summer, bought custom cart, found commissary, submitted HD plan review, lost commissary, didn't get license, couldn't open shop.  Though I managed to find another commissary, this occurred in August, too late to resubmit a plan review revision and schedule a physical inspection with enough time to sell ice before our chilly Fall weather arrived.

During the following months, I stepped back from the ice business and concentrated on parenting, and more recently on house hunting.  However, in setting next year's goals and breaking them out month by month, I realized that, in order to be ready for next season, I needed to get moving on putting my inspection and licensing back on track.  So, last week, I scheduled a face-to-face with one of the Health Department employees.  I'd been working with the supervisor and had been avoiding this one particular employee, simply because I didn't know her and got the impression she was a stickler.  The supervisor, in contrast, had been very helpful and pleasant to work with.  But, I had no time to be picky.  And really I just needed answers to a few plan review issues they'd brought up and to determine whether I could approach my business differently and what effect that would have on my licensing.  In essence, it was a simple fact-finding mission to help me plot out how to proceed from this stuck place I was in.

But Christmas came early for me that day!  When we met, this employee was thoroughly prepared, with my original plan review in front of her.  More than heading me in the right direction, she actually held my hand, had me revise my plan in front of her, initial all the changes, told me to just email her the new commissary documents when I got home, informed me that within two weeks all should be approved and we'd schedule cart inspection for next Spring so that my annual license date would kick in then and not now in the heart of winter.  Then she sent me quite happily on my way! 

Sometimes, I'm just due for a miracle.  And there it was!  In a 10-minute meeting, I moved about two months forward in achieving my goals.  If you take anything away from this story, I hope it will be:  DON'T.  GIVE.  UP.  Do take steps backward if you need to reorganize your thoughts or rebuild your morale.  But then, keep knocking on doors and asking for answers and help.  Finding a commissary and getting your HD license are the two hardest steps to starting an Italian Ice vending business.  If I FINALLY did it, so can you!


More Scoop on Dishers

Posted by Lilly on November 20, 2012 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (8)

This post is the sequel to the story titled The Scoop on Dishers.  In looking back, I was very interested in telling you all I'd learned about dishers and spades, but I realize only now that I could have included even more, such as what to look for, what your health department may require and where to purchase them.  So, I hope this post will make someone's life just a little bit easier in starting up their Italian Ice business.  Here goes...

Now that we're all on the same page about the difference in scoopers and dishers and spades (oh, my!), let's look at what you're going to need when it comes time to buy them.  My previous article explained that, while they come in nice, pretty colors, those colors are not for show.  They're a color coding system for the size of the disher's portion holding ability.  This is great quantity control when you want each cup of Italian Ice to have the same amount in them so you don't have angry customers, or worse... variable profit. 

There are many companies that manufacture dishers, and this may be of concern to you as these companies have varying standards in quality, as well as price of dishers.  On the lower end, you will find Hamilton Beach and Winco make the most common dishers.  They have a typically loose and rickety-sounding thumb release mechanism.  But they are cheap and easily replaceable.  I can find these readily at my local restaurant supply store.

Photo Credit: Hamilton Beach

You may be tempted to stop in at any kitchen supply store or the kitchen gadget section of your Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond to buy something cheap or that you find attractive, perhaps even ergonomic, considering the amount of hours you'll be using that gadget to scoop cup after cup of Italian ice.  But here's where the sad news meets opportunity for inventors.  There are no super comfortable, easy-to-use, attractive and cheap commercial dishers for those who need them and would use them most, us vendors.

Currently on the higher end, there is only one company I've found making dishers that are considered ergonomic.  And this is the Zeroll Company.  Their dishers have a unique look.  You will immediately notice the lack of a thumb release. And the dishers offer multiple ways to hold and grip the tool, whether with your thumb or by use of your entire hand in a squeeze motion that makes repeated use less likely to cause carpal tunnel. 

Photo Credit: Zeroll EZ Disher

Whichever dishers you're considering, make sure you take into account the following information:

What to Buy

Commercial Quality

You will need to buy dishers specifically for commercial (business) use.  The home use dishers will not hold up to constant and repeated use and washing, and will leave you unable to scoop Italian Ice, as Murphy's Law would suggest, right when you have your longest line.

NSF Rating

The National Sanitation Foundation is a company that certifies products for public health and safety.  You will want to get dishers that are NSF certified for commercial use.  And your health department will concur. Those you buy at Target for home kitchen use are not NSF certified.

Left Hand/Right Hand/Universal Disher

This is one of those things that people don't consider until they're actually holding a disher in their hand.  Typically they are made for right handed users.  As of this writing, the only dishers for left handed users are the universal dishers by Zeroll (see below).

Quantity (more than one)

You will need a good number of these, not just one.  Some health departments require one disher per flavor of Italian Ice, or one for each bucket you're scooping from, so as not to mix flavors or contaminate containers.  Some also require backup dishers to be on hand in case you drop one on the floor and don't have a warewashing sink next to you.  Be sure to ask your health department's requirement on this issue.

What NOT to Buy

All-metal dishers with a symmetrical mechanism

Believe it or not, these are not NSF rated, though they would certainly seem so due to the all-metal construction.

Ice Cream Scoops

These are the ones that do not have a scoop release mechanism and are impossible to use for vending.  Unless you have limitless patience and time to get the Italian Ice out of the little scoop's bowl, these are the wrong kind for vending Italian Ice.  They require the smoothness of ice cream to glide through in order to work, and so they are strictly for ice cream and not frozen water products.

Commercial Dishers Manufacturer Pages


Hamilton Beach




A Great Hand Sink Option

Posted by Lilly on July 13, 2012 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (1)

As many Italian Ice vendors are finding out, Health Departments across the country often require at minimum a hand sink on or near your cart when you're selling.  And if you've been one of the lucky ones to skirt this requirement, be aware that many states are adopting guidelines that will make it necessary for you to get one in the future. 

I came across this great option for a hand sink recently and, as usual, wanted to share it with my readers.  A concessionaire by the name of Jeff, who runs ConcessionSinks.com has designed and developed a fully portable sink that can be purchased complete, or you can buy the plans to easily build your own sink.  These include 3-compartment sinks and combinations of both handsink and 3-compartments.  The units appear easy to operate and maneuver, durable and lightweight, as seen here. 

Photo Credit: ConcessionSinks.com

Jeff provides many detailed video guides on the selection of his sinks and other videos to walk people through the building steps should you choose to craft your own.  He's also available via email and phone to assist.  I'm very impressed with the units he's offering, as the cost is substantially less than those offered by the likes of manufactuers such as C Nelson

From my own recent experience, one benefit of a standalone sink, if your Health Department will allow it (some require onboard sinks) is that you would have a modular selling unit.  And trust me, two pieces are much more transportable and easier to maneuver than one larger, bulkier and heavier vending/sink unit.  The modular aspect makes it easy, too, for you to take only the sink into your commissary to dispose of wastewater.  And for women who wish to work at selling Italian Ice alone, two lighter weight units are much easier to manage alone, if you are comfortable with the idea of making two trips for setup and takedown. 

Also, some Health Departments will let you operate a separate, independent hand sink, as long as it is somehow connected to your vending cart.  One seasoned concession veteran said he's been able to simply hook his pushcart to the sink with S-hooks in order to be compliant.  So ask your Health Department what specifically they will accept. 

Finally, another great aspect of ConcessionSink.com's sink unit is that they are complete standalone units, whereby the water is heated with a propane tank.  And if your Health Department requires pressurized water, Jeff's sinks operate with a 12-volt battery driven pump.  No electricity or generator is required, allowing you to vend anywhere you'd like. 

These sinks can also be wrapped in custom graphics by use of banners applied with velcro.  Or you can get your sink wrapped in steel or any other material you would like.  This, however, you would have to do on your own, as ConcessionSinks.com's units are pretty bare, but highly functional.

Why You Need a Sink (or Three)

Posted by Lilly on July 12, 2012 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

When you first get the exciting idea to begin selling Italian Ice, that feeling can very quickly be obliterated after talking with your local Health Department and hearing that they demand for you to have at least a hand sink and/or perhaps, worse, a 3-compartment sink.  Why do you need that?  You're not selling anything that needs to be cooked.  Italian Ice has no dairy.  You're not making it yourself.  For crying out loud, you're simply opening the top of a sealed container from a licensed wholesaler.  And you're (hopefully) not scooping the Italian Ice with your bare hands; you're using NSF-rated dishers.  Why do they have to complicate things with this request, and what the heck is it? 

All of the above went through my head when I spoke with my Health Department supervisor for the first time.  And from many forum boards, it's a series of questions that goes through many other people's heads, too.  So let's start off with the basics.

What's a Hand Sink?

If you're lucky enough that your Health Department only requires a hand sink, fret not.  This is a small, portable sink made of non-pourous materials used to... you guessed it... wash your hands.  We all perform seemingly innocuous and innocent gestures such as scratching our heads and wiping an itchy nose.  But to the Health Department, these motions can easily contaminate the product we are serving.  But perhaps most obvious is that we're handling cash.  And if you've ever counted cash and then washed your hands, you've been witness to the gray water that falls into the basin.  Money really is dirty.  At any rate, to prevent any illness to your consumer, the Health Department requires that you be able to wash your hands regularly while you are vending Italian Ice.  If your HD allows you to just use hand sanitizer or gloves while you sell, hallelujah!

Photo Credit: Archiexpo.com

What's a 3-Compartment Sink?

A 3-compartment sink literally has three compartments.  One is for washing your utensils (dishers).  The next one is for rinsing those utensils.  And the last sink is for sanitizing them.  The proper technique can be learned HERE.  Many Health Departments require this setup to be located near you or even onboard your pushcart in order to wash, rinse and sanitize any dishers that become contaminated while you're selling.  Hopefully your Health Department will let you get away with just sanitizer or having clean, extra dishers on hand if that happens, and if that's the case, you're in luck.

Photo Credit: Turnkey Parlor

What's a Combination Hand & 3 Compartment Sink?

Yes, it does get worse.  The 4-Compartment sink is a dual unit that has a hand sink and the 3-compartment sink all together.  The hand sink is usually required to be separated from the other sinks by a vertical separator (a piece of stainless steel).  Check with your Health Department on that, as it may be required for passing cart inspection. 

Photo Credit: Ebay/Global Restaurant Equipment

What Are Your Options?

  • A hand sink ON your cart, COLD water only
  • A hand sink NEAR your cart (separate), COLD water only
  • A hand sink ON your cart, HOT water (pressurized or gravity)
  • A hand sink NEAR your cart, HOT water (pressurized or gravity)
  • A 4-compartment sink (with hot water ON or NEAR your cart)
  • A 4-compartment sink with dipperwell (with hot water ON or NEAR your cart)
  • Just a dipperwell (nice!)

(California vendors, I empathize with what you're required to have.)

With 3-compartment sinks, cold water is not an option.  Utensils must be washed in a specific temperature range, which your Health Department will tell you and will also check during your cart inspection.  You have to be able to show you can attain the required temperatures. 

With hot water mandates, you will next need to ask your Health Department whether it requires the water to be pressurized, meaning a battery-operated pump (or electric) will be needed to move the water from its reservoir up through the faucet.  The other option is a gravity-fed system, where the water tank is placed above the faucet and water comes down into the faucet by gravity.  There is no battery or pump in a gravity-fed system. 

To achieve hot water, you have a number of options.  Coleman (the camping company) makes a portable hot water heater for outdoor use that can be installed into a cart or used independently with your own sink supplied.  It uses a non-supplied propane tank to heat the water, and many vendors are having success with this unit for a cheap hand washing option. 

Photo Credit:  Coleman

There are also small, portable hot water heaters that can be used to make a customized system.  Check out the Eccotemp Hot Water Heater on the Cool Products page for more information on my favorite.


Photo Credit: AceHardware/Ariston Heater                            Photo Credit: Eccotemp

Where Can You Buy Sinks (or Build One)?

A Note on Dipperwells (or Dipwells)

This is a miniature sink with a spigot, usually for continuous running water.  You set your disher (scooper) into this well to keep it rinsed between uses and from growing bacteria.  It's usually only required of ice cream sellers because their product contains dairy and has increased risks of consumer illness, but you may find your HD requires it.  These can be as simple as a stainless steel container where the scoop rests inside with water, or a full-fledged running unit that can be hooked up to your sink's water system.

Photo Credit: PrimaRestaurantEquipment.com

A Note on Water Tanks

Your sink(s) will need two to three water tanks.  One will hold clean, potable (drinkable), cold water.  One will hold clean, hot, potable water.  And the other will hold the dirty, used water, called a wastewater, or gray, tank.  The Health Department will also tell you what minimum sizes all these tanks should be. 


Really, this is the last very important piece of information you need to know!  I had my custom cart with hand sink built, and upon submitting the plans (for the second time) to my Health Department, I was told that my sink was not placed at an adequate height.  Huh!  This was news to me!  Many Health Departments will require the sink be situated at 36 inches from the ground in order to pass inspection.  Please, for the love of all sanity and homicidal preventive measures, make sure to ask your Health Department about this. 

Whew!  I'm exhausted from typing.  Best of luck on this part of your research and construction.  Drop a line or a comment to let me know what your questions, concerns, or experiences have been.  Go get em!

The Neverending Commissary Search

Posted by Lilly on July 9, 2012 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I've read a few sites that say, if you find a good commissary, do everything in your power to keep it.  Don't rock the boat, and be sure not to bite the hand that feeds you.  Still, no matter what cliche you follow, the need to find a new commissary may arise sooner than you'd like.  Just because you have found your commissary doesn't mean you should stop searching forever.  Keep your eyes and ears open for all new possibilities, always. 

I recently had the bottom fall out of my business when, after arranging negotiations and getting documents together, I finally submitted my plan review to my Health Department to get that glorious license.  I thought that enormous hurdle was behind me, until a week and a half later, my Health Department notified me of the revisions and additional information I would have to provide in order to wrap up the plan review and move on to my cart inspection.  All of the requests were very simple fixes, until I got to the commissary part.  Though I had provided my commissary's state license, my Health Department wanted their city license, too.  And when I visited my commissary people to get a copy of that, they couldn't find it.  Worse, since it's from the City of Philadelphia, they were in no way inclined to spend an entire work day muddling through bureaucratic red tape to get a duplicate license for me.  And just like that - POOF! - I no longer had a commissary.  But there are other reasons your commissary can disappear, many of which have nothing to do with you: 

  • They could decide to raise their fees, pushing you out of being able to afford them 
  • They can sell or go out of business
  • They can simply decide they don't want to have you taking up time and space in their facility
  • They may lose their own license
  • They may get a better offer from another vendor
  • ... and many other reasons

Without a commissary, you will lose your own license and have a major disruption in a business that is already riddled with seasonal time constraints. 

But I just want to share two things you can do to find a commissary.  The first, which I've mentioned before, is to place an ad on Craigslist.  Detail what you need, and how little space/time you would require since you're not a vendor who cooks anything.  You've got nothing to lose by having a free ad out there for restaurateurs and commissary owners to find.  And be sure to headline how you will be able to help them by providing easy income in the form of monthly rent.  From my own experience, I can attest that I was contacted by one person who needed kitchen sharers right in my homebase.  However, the rent was substantially high for a new business owner, so I passed.  Still, my ad helped, and I made a new contact in the street vendor industry.

Next, while in Craigslist, search "commissary" in the ALL FOR SALE area.  Here is what I found recently in my own Philly Craigslist listings (see below).  And yes, I found my new commissary, a great licensed, inspected, and approved operation located in Philly that has bays for 10 pushcart vendors, complete with sinks, freezers and even electric plugs in each bay for those who require refrigeration.  I paid for a six-month lease, which I probably won't use this year, but it will hold my spot for next year.  And knowing how difficult it is to find a commissary, this makes good business sense for me.  Best of luck!

Be sure to check out the Commissary page!

Perks of the Italian Ice Vending Job

Posted by Lilly on July 1, 2012 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (1)

After four straight months of working on developing my Italian Ice vending business, I didn't realize how ready I was for a break.  So, I took last week off.  It's probably the worst possible time to rest on my laurels, but my kids are out of school for the summer, and nothing gets done business-wise with two bored kids in tow.  I had also hit a very low point in starting this business that mandated that I just stop.  Truthfully, I contemplated stopping for good.  But after a while I felt rejuvenated in my idea and efforts, and so it was indeed just a respite.  And some good things came from it.

First of all, I cleared my head.  I was drowning in thoughts about the business and becoming quite obsessed.  Not good.  So I started to consider what else I could do until the last few, but very major pieces of the puzzle came together.  It's now July, mid-summer, and I don't know if I'll be able to scoop Italian Ice this summer at all, so I'm pondering what I can do in the meantime to generate money.  And I remembered a couple of things.  My health department requires no license (thus, no sink either) to sell prepackaged frozen treats, also called novelties.  So I began looking into product and distributors where I may be able to get my hands on something to sell.  I'll stick to Italian Ice, but in sealed cups and push-up bars and popsicles instead.  And I found a great distributor in Philly where I can pick up what I like at wholesale prices. 

Secondly, I began thinking about the catering side of the business.  Again, my health department requires no license for catering that doesn't involve me scooping the product.  The customer can serve themselves.  I can create a side to the Italian Ice business whereby I offer entire buckets and set up of equipment for parties and private functions.  This may be a much slower growing aspect, since it will require really getting the word out, but it's something.  And it's something that isn't being offered in my area... at all. 

Lastly, I remembered to have some fun and enjoy being with my kids.  So, yesterday, I took my daughter to the Super Scooper All-You-Can-Eat-Ice-Cream Festival in Philadelphia at Penn's Landing.  It's an absolute abomination that my son did not want to go!  What 10-year-old in their right mind turns down all-you-can-eat ice cream?  So, without further argument, we dropped him off at his father's for the day and took off.

For a $7 donation (the money went toward fighting pediatric leukemia), my girlie and I got to eat as much ice cream from brands such as Breyer's, Turkey Hill, Haagen Daz, Edy's, Ben & Jerry's, and a bunch more, as we could stand!  We were given a spoon that we kept, and we went around to all the different tables grabbing up the little cups of ice cream to enjoy.  But, secretly, I went down to scout out the Italian Ice being offered too.  I know it was work, but only a teeny bit so.  As usual, Philadelphia Water Ice dominated the event, being absolutely everywhere both in the ice cream tent and out in the streets where Taste of Philly was also being held.  But I just don't enjoy their overly sweet ice.  It was Rosati's Italian Ice that I drove there to sample.  Even though it's one of the oldest manufacturers of Italian Ice, I was unfamiliar with the brand, so I was anxious to try it.  And the prepackaged cups I found to sell were Rosati's brand, so I needed to know if it was a worthy product.  Of the Cherry, Blueberry and Rainbow that I tried, Rainbow was the most fantastic.  It was a combination of Lemon, Cherry and Blueberry or Blue Raspberry (I'm not sure), but it was tangy and perfectly sweet, truly refreshing.  My daughter agreed, and we went back for more after trying other ice creams.  But they were out of that flavor, and from the gathered crowd around the table, we weren't the only ones willing to wait for them to bust out another tub of it.  It appeared to be the flavor-of-the-day.  And when they finally got new cups of it out on the table, people literally ran to grab them!  It was unbelievable. (So was getting our photo taken with Miss Puerto Rico Caribbean U.S, Trisha Perez, which was a real joy for me, and what a class act she is!) 

Now, revived, I'll get back to work and continue the uphill battle that has been starting an Italian Ice vending business, but I'm going to basically let this summer go.  If I worked at a frenetic pace, I could probably get it done... and then sell for two weeks.  Instead, I'll take my time, relax a bit, come up with a Plan B for income until next summer.  And then I'm going to make a serious splash! 

Another Great Week in Italian Ice Startup

Posted by Lilly on May 23, 2012 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

As I write this, it is midweek, but already I've accomplished a lot of my weekly goals in starting up my Italian Ice pushcart business, and I wanted to share those accomplishments.  They will be steps any Italian Ice vendor will need to take to get their business up and running too.

Most importantly, I'm excited to share that I found my commissary!  It was actually right under my nose.  My Italian Ice supplier, which is fairly close to me, has agreed to be my commissary.  And yesterday, I visited them to have them sign the Commisssary Agreement Letter.  A few weeks back, I'd spoken to a representative of my county Health Department who said that, if he had a dollar for every person who's asked for help finding a commissary, which is THE hardest part of starting up an Italian Ice pushcart business, he'd be rich.  I'm actually quite glad no one disclosed this piece of information to me earlier, as it might have deterred me from attempting to start this business.  But I need to share that sometimes we overlook the obvious.  It's a natural partnership.  In exchange for me buying Italian Ice exclusively from them, and for a manageable monthly rental fee, I have my commissary. 

Now it's on to another hurdle.  I've begun the process called the Plan Review.  This is the document that must be filled out for your Health Department to then schedule an inspection and ultimately award you a license.  Thank goodness I went to college, because this is very much like writing a term paper!  Though, again, I don't wish to scare or deter anyone, it's a very detailed document, some parts of which are straightforward and easy to fill out.  But in one particularly laborious section, I need to create ammendments detailing my operating and cleaning procedures, along with my proposed menu.  This is where I need to be very specific, detailing the use of bleach at the right percent solution to sanitize my cart and utensils.  And I need to clearly map out the procedures I will implement to make sure nothing on or within my cart is contaminated.  It's also where I provide information on all of my equipment and whether it is NSF certified, or at the very least "smooth, non-porous, and cleanable".  Of course, it helps very much that the words of my Health Department supervisor ring in my ears every so often... she said "No one gets turned down.  If it's not right, we give it back to you to fix it."  So, while it may not be a one-time shot, because she also said that no one gets it right the first time, it's just something that I need to get through.  For the most part, I'm in the clear now.

And finally, today is the day my logo gets finalized, which allows me to move forward now on business cards, screenprinted T-shirts, and most importantly, the vinyl wrap graphics that will go around my cart.  I ended up using an online company called LogoDesignGuru.com, though I can't quite say whether I recommend them.  Their website certainly seems promising, but my own results with them were underwhelming.  Still, give them a perusal to see if you think they might be a good fit for you.  You auction for logo and design services at whatever dollar amount you choose ($199 minimum to start), and designers from around the world send you drafts attempting to win the "pot".  It can allow for a wide variety of options if you are fortunate enough to get a designer who is either very talented and a visionary, or one who takes great direction from you. 

So, I still have today, Thursday and Friday to keep plugging along on this 10,000-piece puzzle that is starting an Italian Ice pushcart business.  But I can honestly say, I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel... just in time for some fabulous, hot weather. 

Italian Ice Umbrella Do-Over

Posted by Lilly on May 7, 2012 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (0)

A month ago or so, I blogged about the great umbrellas that I found at Home Depot.  They were 9 foot diameter ones with a deep, dark wooden pole, and they looked spectacular.  They had the upscale look I wanted for my cart.  I also recommended in that blog post that my readers go out and get some before they were all gone.  Now, my own two beloved umbrellas are also gone. 

In yet another of my many discussions with my local Health Department, I got the good news that the drawings for my custom cart appear adequate enough to pass inspection.  My umbrellas, however, would not pass.  Obviously, this requirement will be different for other vendors in other parts of the country, but in my county, the rule goes that all food must be covered in the event of rain or contaminants entering into the food from above.  Additionally, anything that I use as equipment must be "smooth, nonporous and cleanable".  In that, my umbrellas clearly were not smooth or nonporous and certainly not cleanable with the Health Department's required bleach solution. 

It's funny, though, how disappointment can often be followed by opportunity.  And in my sad attempt to replace my great umbrellas with what I was sure would be a mediocre substitute, I began another agonizing online search, this time for a decent, nonporous umbrella that wouldn't empty my bank account.  After three days, I stumbled onto a company that makes custom umbrellas, PatioStore.com.  And surprisingly they are able to make for me the exact umbrella I had visualized when I first began thinking of how I wanted to brand my business. Though the umbrella will be more expensive than the two store-bought ones, it is relatively affordable and will also likely be a better umbrella all around and worth the money.   But I was fortunate that the price didn't extend into the category of the obscene that I encountered frequently online. 

In 2-3 weeks, I will receive an 8.5 foot diameter commercial umbrella that will be able to withstand high wind with a vented canopy made of vinyl.  I got to select from a wide array of colors and patterns, so I chose the beautiful lime green I've been desperately wanting for my umbrella.  As an added bonus, the umbrella's trim will be contrasted in white (standard).   It will have 12 spokes, rather than the six my store-bought ones had, so I'll be able to hang more from them, but they function to make the umbrella much stronger.  And finally, it will have those lovely valances which truly make my cart achieve that "street vendor" look.  I'm excited.  As fate would have it, when I contacted my custom-cart manufacturer about the pole diameter and slot size for the umbrella on my cart, it turned out that the umbrellas I'd bought from Home Depot wouldn't have worked anyway! 

So, to wrap up this post and get the moral of the story across, do your homework!  Find out first what your local Health Department requires in overhead protection.  Some lucky vendors are fine with any umbrella or none at all.  Also, make sure that whatever umbrella you are looking to get will work with the umbrella slot or post of the cart you are also buying.  And keep your chin up during those times when it seems you can't get what you want.  You just might find that you get what you need.