All Eyes On You: Safety in a Cash-Based Business

Posted by Lilly on October 29, 2014 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (8)

If there's one draw to the business of Italian Ice, it's the fast, somewhat easy cash you can make day to day.  But if you think you're the only one drawn to that, think again. 

On more than a few occasions, I've felt that I needed to be on high alert as to my surroundings when selling Italian Ice.  But truthfully, I have continued to sell without much regard for my safety, not to mention that of my teen daughter who also sometimes sells with me.  However, the issue of prevention and protection came front and center the other day when I sold at a large Walk-Your-Dog-for-Cancer type event.  It was business as usual, until the end of the day.  Since I always seem to get the straggler sales, I opted to stick around a little longer to make a few more bucks instead of taking down my booth and leaving with all the other vendors.  It was at this time that a customer came up to buy ice.  As I was serving, he was eyeballing my operation, and as he began to walk away, he asked how I did that day.  I have certainly had folks consider getting into the Italian Ice business, and I can usually tell those types when they ask simple questions like how I keep the ice frozen.  But I this  guy's eyes wandered onto the apron around my waist, my money bag.  That unsettled me.  I very suddenly felt that this guy's intentions could turn in a different direction.  Luckily he was with a female companion, and she started to walk away, so he went with her and that was that.  But this encounter has lingered in my mind for a while, raising a lot of questions for next season. 

For starters, I'm a woman.  Secondly, I often sell alone.  Thirdly, a profitable event leaves a noticeable bulge in my apron!  But really, regardless of whether the first two issues apply to you or not, the last one is the key exposure.  You're carrying cash, and everyone knows it.  Heck, the thieves hit up Italian Ice stores, for crying out loud!  So, besides quitting this business (which isn't going to happen, I love it too much), what are my options for protection?

1.  Sell only during day events. 

This has a good probability of reducing my chances of getting muggged, but I don't like to lie to myself that it solves the entire problem.  There's always a desperate criminal who sees me as an easy mark, day or night.

2.  Get outta Dodge! 

The "Safety in Numbers" rule applies here.  Close down the booth when every other vendor starts to do it.  Luckily my takedown is lightning fast, so I can get out before everyone else a lot of times, for which not sitting in a jammed parking lot alone is a great reason to bolt. 

3.  Get a dog.

Having a dog, preferably on the larger side, is always a deterrent to would-be thieves.  Additionally, it might even be a draw for the kids, if it's cute!  This is a win-win.  A protective dog is a great asset to have guarding my back as I take down the booth, and a great companion for the rides home at night.  Better yet, I could keep the money belt ON the dog!  Luckily so far, nearly every event would allow me to have a dog present too.  So, looks like I'll be hitting up the pet adoptions!

4.  Get a gun.

This one sounds extreme, and may be, but it's still a viable option, and not near as hard to do as it seems.  In fact, in the majority of states, it's easier to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon than it is to get approved from a Health Department to sell mobile food!  To learn a little bit more, read this Wikipedia article.  The only issue here is what a trained gun carrier told me... only take it out to actually use it, never to just warn.  And that's a little scary to me.

5.  Keep a bullhorn at hand.

No, really.  Okay, you should know by now that I don't think like most folks, so this idea actually is plausible to me.  Thinking about a home and how we protect it, there are lessons to learn.  A home alarm system serves really only one purpose, and that is to SCARE OFF THE BURGLARS & ROBBERS.  So the same principle applies.  If I'm alone and about to be mugged, an exceptionally loud noise will hopefully scare off the criminal, but more importantly, it will draw attention from anyone nearby.  And for only $20 for one with a siren, it's worth it!

6.  HIre security.

While this is more a joke idea, maybe it's a way to go.  Bring on a tough friend who has nothing to do that day and would love to be paid with Italian Ice.  Let him sit in your booth all day.  On a similar note, I tend to get into conversations with lots of my customers, and I think that helps too.  And when I get offers of help from other vendors to take down, I now take them up on it, for the company.  I have had up to seven people (customers, friends, kids, kids' friends, even politicians!) in my booth just chatting with me and each other at the end of events.  While fun, it allows me to leave in safety.  Lastly, I make friends with my local police.  They are often at the events where I sell.  I need to get clever and offer all cops free ice at the end of the gig!

7.  When needed... LIE.

If I get a snoopy customer asking obvious questions like "Is this your business?", "Do you run it alone?" or "Do you need any help with your tent?", I have now opted to lie.  Yep, I simply tell them my partner or friend is coming back to help me, or went to get the car, or I'm waiting for my crew to come back.  Anything that makes them think twice and leave.

8.  Use your bank's drop box.

While you still have to close down your setup and  get out of the event safely, one way to make yourself less of a target on your way home is to use your bank's drop box.  if you have a business account, you can ask for those plastic bags bank use for after-hours drop offs and dump your cash right after each event.  UPDATE:  also make use of a locking cash box.

Which leads to...

9.  Never drive home directly.

if a would-be thief thinks he can't get to you at an event, he may consider his next best option, which is to follow the money...  meaning you on your way home.  Think it can't happen?  Read this story!

I'm still grappling with all of this, and may come up with some other useful ideas.  But I bet you've thought of it too or encountered a similar situation.  I want to hear what you think.  Share your ideas in the comments! 

The Hidden Income in Self-Service Italian Ice Catering

Posted by Lilly on May 20, 2013 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (13)

In at least one recent post, I highlighted how I could sell Italian Ice without having to actually scoop or deal with my Health Department's requirements.  It's simple... delivery (a.k.a. catering).  Today, I'm elated to report to you that my launch of the catering side of the business was a success with the first order I received this past weekend.

It's the end of the school year now, and many elementary schools have festive carnivals and Spring Fairs and Field Days, great events that wrap up the year with some type of outdoor party.  And what goes better with hot kids and the outdoors than Italian Ice?  Yeah, I can't think of anything either! 

So I got a call - a bit of short notice - for an order of five 2.5 gallon tubs of Italian Ice for the following day.  As it turned out, I had prepared myself with rolling coolers, which I let these folks borrow for free.  I do plan to charge for equipment rental, but truth be told, I was just so thrilled to have my first order that I felt generous.  For each tub, I charged $33.00.  This decent price is $5.00 below the cost of the same sized tubs from Rita's locally.  I also provided free delivery and setup, which Rita's most certainly does not.  The setup consisted of assembling the quick-connect legs of the coolers (30 seconds) and then placing the 77-quart coolers full of tubs onto the legs.  Then I rolled the coolers into place next to my customer's selling table.  I did not provide cups, spoons or napkins, and I thought the discount on tubs and the full-service I provided more than made up for not providing those amenities.  But this works, since it allows the customer to use any material or color of cup plus multiple sizes and price points to their customers, rather than the one size, dirt-cheap cup I would likely provide for free.  I was also sure to mention that sales tax was included in the quoted price, to which I heard a delightful "Ohhhhh!" 


Right after rolling the carts in place, I opened the top of one cooler to pull out the five dishers (scoops) I was also providing for their use, to be returned after the event. Though the customer and I hadn't discussed the need for dishers for her event, there was a definite sense of relief when she realized she hadn't thought to get any.   At this point, my customer exclaimed, "Why can't everybody come this prepared?"  It was music to my ears, though I maintained my gloating grin for the sake of professionalism. 

Promptly after the event ended, I showed back up to collect my coolers and dishers.  Though it was only a temperature of 69 degrees and drizzly, the event had been a success.  I saw that there were only two half-tubs left over.  They had made a lot of money!  Everyone was happy all around.  And my very satisfied customer commented that she will be telling everyone about my service.  Yahoo!

As an aside, I quicky learned a few lessons.  Though I've heard it said before in business, it's worth repeating... "Always under promise and over deliver".  I learned that it's best to show up as close as possible to the anticipated start time of the event, rather than at the beginning of any setup time.  In this case, setup for the event started at 2:00pm, but the event actually began at 3:00pm.  That extra hour could have made a difference between melted and scoopable ice by the end of the 4-hour shindig.  So I'll remember that for the future. The other lesson learned was this...

When I checked my inventory to see whether I had my customer's requested flavors in stock, I happened to open one container just to be certain it did not have any freezer burn or ice crystals.  All good there.  However, this tub of cherry ice had been used to scoop Italian Ice for a photo shoot.  So while it looked full and good to sell from all indications on the outside of the tub, it would have been disastrous if the customer opened the tub to see it had already been scooped from!  From now on, I will do two things to prevent that.  When possible I will store those tubs designated for my scooping sales into one freezer, and I'll keep unopened tubs for catering sales in a different freezer.  Additionally, I have begun the act of placing a large black "X" on the lid of any opened/used container, so I can't make that near-fatal mistake again. 

Now, onto numbers!  For the 20 minutes total that it took me to throw coolers in my car, some Italian Ice tubs into the coolers, and set up the rolling coolers at the event, I made a cool $165.00 in revenue.  For the sake of easy explanations, I'm going to leave things like gas out of the equation (they were right up the street) and sales tax, too.  At the per-tub rate I'm charging, I would make $660.00 per hour, if I did that kind of business all day long.  It would be insane income. And for something that was pretty darn near effortless!  I was surprised to see how easy logistics and execution were, and how much I could profit to keep offering this service in my business.  Though it's not near as fun as scooping and interacting with customers, and driving around making deliveries would get old in a hurry, perhaps the money to be made could bring a change of heart.

Three Steps Forward, A Half Step Back

Posted by Lilly on June 4, 2012 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (1)

Yet another week in my Italian Ice business startup closed yesterday, since my personal workweeks start on Monday and ends on Sunday, typically.  So it's time for what has become my weekly wrap-up.  Lots of good things happened in these very fast-passing seven days, though it ended with one hefty disappointment.

Early in the week, I finally completed and hand-delivered by Plan Review to the Health Department.  Surprisingly, when it was done, I had the strangest feeling of a letdown, rather than excitement at something that was pending for months finally coming to a conclusion.  It surprised me, and I suppose it has something to do with knowing that my plans for getting started by June were not going to happen.  The Health Department will take a week to review the document, and then it will likely return to me portions that need revision.  So, maybe that euphoria I expected will come about only when I'm actually handed my health license. 

But, in a turn of events, I was contacted mid-week by a man through Craigslist asking if I was still looking for a commissary.  I was surprised to be hearing from anyone at all about an ad I'd placed well over a month ago.  Well, as you may know, I found my commissary, so I informed this guy, but I asked him to tell me more in case I decided to change commissaries.  One thing in our email conversation led to another, and it turned out the commissary is right around the corner from me, which would be absolutely ideal, compared to mine which is 30 minutes away.  But the monthly rent is completely out of my range and geared toward fulltime users of the kitchen, which I would never be.  He then asked me what specifically I sold and what my "setup" was, which I understood to mean the description of my selling equipment, pushcart versus truck.  And he told me that, coincidentally, he and his partner had been looking to add frozen dessert in the form of ice cream or gelato to their lineup, and my product would pair well for now, while not interfering with theirs should they pursue frozen desserts in the future.  He asked if I'd be interested in joining them in the number of events they had lined up this summer, for a percentage of my revenue.  Of course, depending on that percentage (wink, wink), I told him I'd be thrilled at the opportunity, realizing that it had become too late in the season already for me to get into events on my own now, and also knowing that events are where I'll make the most money fastest.  The exposure for me and my business, as well as the experience and the potential contacts I could accumulate make almost any percentage of my revenues totally worth it if it sets me up for a smooth and profitable next year. 

In contrast to that great news, I received my very long-awaited, custom umbrella on Friday.  With my heart beating quickly, I opened the box.  I guess it was the glitches in communication with the middleman company I worked with on this umbrella, coupled with not having heard about nor received the umbrella in the expected timeframe, as well as the sudden resignation of the customer service representative I'd been working with to order it, that I had an uneasy expectation.  And sure enough, my expectation was met.  The color of the umbrella's vinyl is the wrong green, though I'd been explicit in explaining what I needed and made the representative double-check that I'd get what I was seeing in their online vinyl samples.  In addition, the pole was white, when I'd specifically ordered silver to match the permanent umbrella post being installed on my pushcart.  Today I will work to see what remedy the company will work out for me.  But I contacted the manufacturer directly and asked to have swatches of every green vinyl fabric they offer sent to me this week.  And happily, if they don't have one that matches my brand (lime green), they also accept customer fabric being sent to them from which they'll make my umbrella.  So I know in the end I will get the exact umbrella I want, but the disappointment is that it won't arrive in time for my Health Department inspection.  And this means, of course, even more delay in starting up sales.  My Plan Review included this umbrella as business equipment, so I will hope that they don't notice if I show up to inspection without it.  Instead, I'll take along a vinyl 10' x 10' canopy that I recently purchased for events which don't allow the umbrella.  It still meets the Health Department requirements, so all should be okay.

I ended the week by buying clear storage boxes, and this I found very exciting, being the nut for organization that I am.  All the contents of the cardboard boxes that had accumulated in my living room for the past two months have now all been neatly put into these clear boxes.  This allows, of course, for the contents, such as cups, spoons and napkins to remain dry and sanitary.  But even better, it allows me to quickly see the contents and know when supplies are getting low, so I can place a re-order.  And these boxes now sit beautifully on my NSF-approved steel shelving that I bought for this purpose.  It's these little things that keep me sane and make it a joy to work, and it also looks very professional. 

Finally, I opened one of my 2.5 gallon Italian Ice tubs yesterday to begin practicing the art of scooping.  All the neighborhood kids had been waiting eagerly for this day!  I had dedicated an entire tub to this endeavor, so I'd get the procedure down, get practice with the disher and also achieve the look I want in my served product.  I'm elated to report that it took only 4 cups and very little product to get it down.  It's easy!  I simply set the entire tub out of the freezer for about 20 minutes.  The ambient temperature was only in the upper 60's , maybe low 70's, so I expected it to take a long time to be scoopable.  But it didn't!  And it will be even easier if I serve the Italian Ice warmer, as recommended by my wholesaler.  So, that's accomplished!

This week there is still lots more to be done.  But probably the most anticipated event is the arrival of my business cards!  I can't wait to see them.  It's one of those milestones or rites of passage that really mean one is in business.  And equally anticipated is getting started on sending out introductory letters to community businesses, schools, religious organizations, and camps to finally get the word out about my new Italian Ice business. 

Focus on Customer Serv-Ice

Posted by Lilly on May 12, 2012 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

So, in starting my Italian Ice business, I've now bought most of my supplies and equipment.  I've created my plans of action.  I've put together a list of potential customers and organizations.  And in doing all this, I began imagining myself in front of my pushcart actually serving my customers.  I'm a naturally gabby person and enjoy interactions.  I also used to be a people-pleaser and a retail manager, so taking care of my customers will come naturally.  But I realized on a recent visit to a couple of competitors' Italian Ice stands that customer service needs to be a priority, since this will drive my customers' choice to find me and buy from me again, or hire me for their company's picnic, or refer me to their friends, or invite me to host concessions at their sporting events, etc.


Yesterday, I took my kids to a new little Italian Ice stand that I found in the next county over.  Online reviews said this place was the best, way better than Rita's.  And I remembered that a woman I'd spoken to last month told me her friend buys party tubs from this place instead of Rita's because it's so much better.  Great.  So I wanted to see what their "formula" for successful word-of-mouth and online reviews was all about. 

The stand was adorable, in a little out of the way spot, but worth it.  Attached to the stand was a tree-shaded patio with picnic tables and market umbrellas with hanging lanterns, thoroughly inviting.  But when we walked up to the window, there stood a non-smiling teenage employee just staring at us.  No "hello".  No smile.  I felt I was about to bother her or ruin her day.  At the very least, I felt she didn't want to be there or was perhaps even scared to interact with the public.  It turned out she was nice and accomodating enough, not bothered by my son's request to squeeze three flavors into the 9-ounce cup and top it off with a dollop of soft-serve ice cream.  But I felt the visit would have been much more enjoyable with a different first impression rather than the "deer in headlights" employee's face.  The ice, too, left much to be desired; it was the slightly smoother but still crunchy consistency of a snowcone.  But that's besides this blog post's point.

So, driving home, I detoured to my own town's quaint, busy intersection where small businesses and restaurants abound, and by complete accident we found another little water ice stand.  I was nervous at first, thinking this stand is right in my neighborhood where I'm launching my business.  But then I remembered my distinct advantage:  I am mobile.  This stand was much less inviting.  It was a flat-faced little building attached to a Starbucks.  It looked old and had been cheaply painted over many, many times.  Even less inviting was that the little serving windows were closed, though it was a gorgeous day, with no way to know if the stand was attended or open.  As we stood there, one of the windows slid open, and we were immediately assaulted with the strangest smell of sweetness and chemicals.  It was akin to the janitorial smell of toilet cleaner but worse, which is where my association went.  The man who greeted us was of foreign decent, and also not smiling.  He just stared at us, too.  This time, when my son asked for his three-flavored cup, I received a kind of scowl from the owner, like "are you serious - can't you make him pick just one?"  I simply smiled back at him, and he went to fill the cup.  My daughter and I had only two flavors in each of our cups.  I then got into conversation with the man, asking about wholesaling, which he misunderstood and believed I meant I wanted party tubs at his retail price.  Perhaps it was the language barrier and his broken English, or perhaps I don't appear to be an Italian Ice reseller, but I just left it at that and thought better than to do business with this guy. And his ice?  Horrible.  The first spoonfuls were good enough, but pasty as though he did not add enough water to his mix.  And within a matter of minutes on the drive home, my Strawberry-Lemonade began foaming and dissolving in front of my eyes.  It also changed flavor, to a sharp baking-soda bite.  I had to throw it away.

When I arrived home, I felt good.  I realized that, not only will I be the only mobile Italian Ice seller in the entire 2-county area, but my product is far superior to what my competitors offer.  My supplier has been in the business for over 45 years!  And in Philly, where Italian Water Ice is abundant, that says a lot about their quality and service.  But most importantly, I plan to serve my Italian Ice with a welcoming smile, gentle greeting and eye contact.  I plan to fulfill every kids' request for multiple flavors with enthusiasm.  And I plan to be a vendor that the community will be proud to buy from and work with.  Engaging, responsive, attentive... true customer serv-ice.  These qualities are what will set me far apart from my competition - my secret weapons!

Italian Ice Business Startup Costs

Posted by Lilly on May 1, 2012 at 7:55 AM Comments comments (1)

In this post I'm going to break out my actual expenses thus far in starting my own Italian Ice business.  These are real and actual numbers, not fabricated, not guessed at or estimated.  And I don't want you to feel discouraged when you see them.  Analyzing things in the light of day is often the best reality check and helps us set a realistic course, and it may even spark your creativity as you see the need to step up sales and marketing. 

The numbers below represent what I have chosen to purchase, and may not reflect the choices you decided to make.  You can scale back, buy used, forego frivolous items or ramp up certain other areas.  However, most of the numbers are necessities.  So, here we go.


  • Custom Cart $3000
  • Car Hitch $200
  • Transport Carrier for Cart $500 (labor to install not yet calculated)
  • Winch $350
  • Custom Umbrella $225
  • Portable Chair $92
  • Chest Freezer $400
  • TOTAL: $4,767

Government Fees & Business Setup

  • Health Dept. Plan Review $229
  • Fictitious Name Application $70
  • Fictitious Name Advertising $70
  • Business Insurance $300
  • Website Domain & Hosting $60
  • TOTAL: $729 (not including local permits to be obtained)

Supplies (Office & Selling)

  • Calendar Manager/Mileage Log/Signage/Misc. $120
  • Cups $195
  • Spoons $100
  • Napkins $48
  • Napkin Holders (2) $48
  • Freezer Thermometers (2) $5
  • Reuseable Cold Plates $120
  • Vendor Aprons (2) $55
  • Dishers (scoops/6) $77
  • Promotional Spoons $140
  • Ice Cream Transport Bags (2) $270
  • Cup Dispenser $100
  • TOTAL: $1,278


Luckily, this amount was in my original guesstimate and budget.  And I know there will be additional incidentals, like actual Italian Ice, not to mention commissary rental and perhaps storage rental for me because I don't have any storage space where I live. So, to all those website and Italian Ice e-book authors that say there are low startup costs in this business, well, I suppose in relation to other businesses, there are.  But in real dollars to single operators/sole proprietors in a microbusiness, this is a lot.  Thankfully, the largest expense, that of assets and equipment, is not a recurring charge.  Therefore, operating costs are very affordable, with little overhead. 

I plan to make back much of my money by the second year.  I also have a plan I've concocted to grow my business quickly.  I won't be hiring help my first year, so all the profits will be mine.  But in my growing years, I'll bring on independent contractors to work additional carts I hope to buy.  So, don't be disillusioned.  This is a very real business enterprise, like any other.  It will require capital and your blood, sweat and tears.  If you enter into this business believing you will be making money hand-over-fist, you will soon learn otherwise.  It is a hustling business, and it's physically demanding as well.  The cart is heavy, as are the ice cream tubs.  You will be engaged in manual labor.  But, for me, I'm still so excited to have found something that is such a perfect fit, that I know I will give it whatever it takes.  

Fire and Ice: The Heated Debate on Frozen Desserts

Posted by Lilly on April 1, 2012 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

It occurred to me, now that I've written several blog posts about the business of Italian Ice, that perhaps there are questions out there as to what exactly is Italian Ice, and how is it any different than other frozen desserts, such as sorbet or sherbet.  This can be a pretty contentious debate as to the subtle differences, but I hope to show you how Italian Ice uniquely hits the sweet spot for profitability.


All ice desserts are not created equal.  They may look the same, they may even taste somewhat the same, but some very important criteria set all these treats apart... ingredients, ice particle size,  machinery required and the process of making it.


Ice Cream

So, let's start with the basics, ice cream.  Ice cream is that cold, creamy dessert we all know and love.  It's main ingredient is milk, and/or cream.  It is a dairy product.  Its other ingredients include sugar and flavorings, and the ingredients are blended as a liquid and put into a churning and freezing machine.  If you've purchased a gallon of milk or container of ice cream lately, you know then that this product is expensive, and that its price can fluctuate greatly based on the cost of milk and cream.  So, as a reseller it will cost you more to buy, as well.  And just try adjusting the price of that treat up and down on your customers, and watch them disappear.


Sherbet has similar qualities to ice cream.  It's made in much the same way, but has considerable differences in ingredients.  Sherbet (or sherbert), like ice cream, can contain dairy, making it smooth and creamy, though slightly less so than ice cream.  It can also contain gelatin or egg whites.  And its ingredients, too, are pre-blended and then put as a liquid into a churning and freezing machine. What makes it different than ice cream is the ratio of dairy products to fruit or fruit juice.  Sherbet has much, much more fruit and/or juice and much less dairy, making it far healthier due to its lower fat content.  Further, it's usually priced similarly to ice cream.


Snow Cones

Now let's jump clear to the other end of the spectrum and talk about snow cones.  These simple childhood treats, besides being a pain in the hiney to hold, are the cheapest of the lot to make.  Ice is crushed through a machine, dispensed into that forsaken slippery cone, and flavored syrup is added on top.  End of story.  No milk, no fruit, no blending.  It's made of crunchier ice pieces that melt very quickly.  It has high profit potential being all water, selling for almost as much as more expensive ice treats.  But personally, I feel it's missing the high-end consumer appeal that's required where I live.  


Shaved Ice

Shaved ice is much like snow cones.  It consists of strictly ice and syrup.  Shaved ice, however, goes down a notch in ice size and up in consistency.  This requires an ice shaving machine that literally makes small, flakier, almost snow-like particles which compact very nicely.  But like a snow cone, flavored syrup is added to the cone after it's shaved, making it a two-step process for the seller.  The end product is then closer in texture to our next categories and also has high profitability, while now having more consumer appeal than snow cones.



Here we step into the ideal combination of sherbet and shaved ice.  But this contender stands alone.  Sorbets have no dairy.  And they have a very high fruit content (higher than sherbets).  It's not unusual to see actual little bits of fruit in sorbet.  This makes sorbets much healthier than the above products.  They are also manufactured like ice cream and sherbets in that the ingredients are blended into a liquid and then churned and frozen in a machine, called a batch freezer.  They are typically more expensive, due to the high fruit content, and therefore may be less profitable to the reseller.  Of course, you could price this product higher, but your market would have to be familiar with sorbet and demand for healthier treats would have to be in place.


Italian Ice

In comes the perfect frozen dessert product... Italian Ice.  I consider it the trifecta of frozen dessert reseller appeal, excelling in Product, Price and Ease of Selling.  While it's considered a step below sorbets, in ingredients, it is nonetheless as lofty as sorbet in consumer appeal, having a similar (though not exact) taste and texture.  Because it is less expensive to make than sorbets, it can be priced lower in areas that require it, or it can be priced higher in areas that allow it.  It's versatile and reseller friendly.  Made from water, fruit purees or juice, and sugar, the difference is that it has a lower fruit content.  Unfortunately, a number of manufacturers add high fructose corn syrup and stabilizers that bring the quality down, but it's easy to find producers who stick to sugar, water and fruit juices.  Look for them.  Italian Ice it is also pre-blended as a liquid, churned and then frozen.  The reseller only has to scoop it out, not crushing any ice and requiring no machine on the cart (unlike snow cones and shaved ice). 


A sidenote on Water Ice

So what, then, is water ice (a.k.a. "Warder Ice")?  Well, the debate on this one often says that there is no difference between Italian Ice and Water Ice, but I have to differ.  You see, I've had both. And I live on the cusp of New York, New Jersey and Philly.  Many people will say that Water Ice is the term Philly folks use for Italian Ice. They contain the same ingredients, in the same quantities and go as liquid into the same batch freezers.  But - and here's the secret difference - Water Ice is served at a slightly higher temperature.  Where Italian Ice is often served at temperatures of +10 to +15 degrees and is scraped by the scooper (causing carpal-tunnel to the server), Water Ice is served at a higher temperature of +20 to +25 degrees, allowing it to be scooped with amazing ease. Italian Ice, however, will hold up better and longer in hot temperatures, taking longer to melt. Two cups next to each other, one with Italian Ice and the other with Water Ice, will reveal that Water Ice is, in fact, slightly more watery.  Other than that difference, the quality is the same. I imagine, however, that the comical debate between Philly versus New York and New Jersey will continue for centuries to come over who has the better product.  


In conclusion, there are other icy treats, such as gelato and granita, that I could discuss, but I've chosen ones you may have tasted yourself or heard about on the Food Network or other places.  (Incidentally, gelato is a lower fat ice cream, sometimes with cornstarch, that typically has higher quality ingredients, is churned for less time, and is served at a slightly higher temperature than ice cream.)  And there are still others that are regional, like snowballs in the Baltimore area.  But it's very likely that they fall somewhere in the descriptions above, with very little difference, except perhaps in toppings and additions. I hope I've finally been able to break out the subtle difference in these icy treats.  But my fear is that I've launched a national debate.  Whatever your opinion, as a reseller, choose the product that fits best in your region, based on the demographics of people there and what they like.  For me, biased as I am, it still works out that Italian Ice is the way to go, though I'll probably serve it warmer and switch out my sign when my travels take me closer to Philly.   



Doing What I Know

Posted by Lilly on March 28, 2012 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (1)

Hello, Dear Reader.  You have now begun a journey with me that will venture into the entrepreneurial world of becoming an Italian Ice pushcart vendor. It is my new dream, and it may be yours too.  So, feel free to follow along as I work my way through this maze and make my dreams come true, one tiny (and often frustrating) step at a time.

I'm a 43-year-old woman who recently found herself up against the wall, up poop's creek, facing her future with no way out (or a paddle).  Early this year, on the day after New Year's, I decided to take a leap of faith and go visit a man I'd met at our local farmer's/flea market. 

This market is huge.  It's visited by people from New York and New Jersey, along with the locals, us Pennsylvanians.  I'd stumbled on an opportunity several months before where I found myself bragging that my hispanic food specialties, empanadas, were better than the ones being sold at this market.  I was overheard by, of all people, the head honcho who runs the food at this place.  He and I got to talking and he suggested I bring some of my food by some day.  So on that fateful day in January, I took a large sample of my delicious empanadas for him to try.  It was an exciting day that ended with a verbal agreement for me to cook my product in his licensed kitchen and the possibility of working for him at the market, selling my own food.  All seemed very promising, and he'd call me the next week. 

Well, a month later, when it became clear I wouldn't be hearing from him, and not being as much of a go-getter as I'd like, I began searching online for other avenues for me to sell my empanadas.  That's when I tripped over the idea of selling Italian Ice.  Hmm, no labor intensive food to prepare.  Just keep the ice frozen.  No fluctuating temperatures or food-handler certificate needed.  It was touted by a number of sites as the perfect American dream... business ownership, being my own boss and making gobs of money.  Talk about cold, hard cash.  While I'm actually very analytical and take my time with new ventures, this idea just struck a chord, and I found myself spending hours absorbing everything I could find about it to see if it really was for me. 

I created a revenue projection spreadsheet, and that's when I realized this opportunity was too good to pass by.  And not just for the money.  I am recently divorced, and my alimony will end later this year.  I have to get back on my feet.  I can't stand the idea of going back to an office.  I need sunshine, warmth and to be outside.  I want to be with my kids.  I want to be around others.  I want to plant something and watch it grow.  To top it off, Italian Ice is my favorite Northeast treat.  THIS business was the perfect fit for me!  I used to be a retail manager, so this would be working with the public.  I want to give my kids something of a legacy, and they can learn the business as teens and take it over as adults.  I can bring my dog if I want!  Work when I want!  Run it how I want!  And if I put all my ducks in a row properly and quickly, I can be up and running this 2012 selling season.  No, I have to be.

I'll share everything I learn with you, from pushcart products to selling tips.  And I'll introduce you to all the characters I meet along the way.  There already have been many.  This is quite a unique business. And if you're on this journey too, feel welcome and free to participate, chat me up, ask questions, send me stories, photos or just follow along.  Welcome!