The Icebox Opens on Route 146
It's not exactly a typical job for a college freshman, but it's one Brianna O'Keefe has taken on with enthusiasm.
This weekend marked the grand opening of The Icebox, a small shop on Route 146 that sells 11 flavors of Richie's Italian Ice. The space, which once housed a drive-through coffee and sandwich shop known as Coffee and Cream, makes a great family stop on a hot day, and could be the perfect place to grab a treat on the way to the nearby Rustic Drive-in.
And 17-year-old O'Keefe, a 2012 graduate of Cumberland High School, works as both owner and manager.
O'Keefe will be attending Rhode Island School of Design in Providence this fall, and profits from the business may help the aspiring architect pay for college.
"She needed a job, so instead of her just getting some minimum wage job, I gave her a business," explained Brianna's father, David O'Keefe.
"He thought starting my own business would be a good learning experience," said Brianna. "It's a pricey school so I'm definitely going to need some help with that and I wanted to get started on the right foot."
Coffee and Cream left the lot three years ago after more than 14 years of business, consolidating their restaurant to one location on Greenville Road, and leaving behind an iconic over-sized coffee cup, once used for advertising, which still stands by the highway. The space has been vacant since and required some serious maintenance, from landscaping to painting and general primping.
David O'Keefe has used every task as a learning experience for the younger O'Keefe, and the family has done most of the work themselves. "It was hard work but it was actually really fun," said Brianna. Now a few picnic tables, more of which are on the way, sit in the sunny open field they've created, and the quaint shop, painted in pastels, harkens to a time when such business novelties were more common.
"A lot of people are appreciating the fact that it doesn't look like an eyesore anymore," said Brianna.
The enormous coffee cup remains at the front of the property with only a few changes. The Coffee and Cream lettering has been removed, and a fog machine has been installed on top. The shop will begin offering coffee soon and Brianna will use the replica of a steaming cup to indicate when a fresh pot has just been brewed.
"I was nervous because I know it's a local landmark, but once people saw we kept the cup, the reaction was mostly positive," she said. "It's kind of nice to keep the place alive."
The Italian Ice is served in three sizes and comes in flavors such as watermelon, banana, blue raspberry, iced coffee and grape. The fat-free, cholesterol-free, and gluten-free treat provides visitors with a healthy alternative to ice cream.
"I think people like Italian Ice more than ice cream," said Brianna. "It's more refreshing."
All of the documents, from the lease to the bills, are in Brianna's name, and the new high school graduate, who will turn 18 in two weeks, handled all of the pre-opening legwork with a little help from family.
"It was nerve-racking going before the Town Council to ask for a business license," she said. "I was so nervous."
The would-be artist doesn't aspire to stay in food service forever, but hopes to pass the torch to her younger sister, who is scheduled to graduate from high school with perfect timing in four years, right when Brianna hopes to complete her bachelor's degree. Two even younger siblings stand next in line for the new O'Keefe enterprise.
"I know how to do it now if I'm ever in the position to do it again," Brianna said of the process.
The Icebox held a grand opening on Saturday and friends have volunteered to help man the building while the young entrepreneur gets her start.
"There's been a lot of enthusiasm and support," she said. At the opening, "I expected it to be more family and friends, but it was also a lot of people that were just curious," she added.
The shop will be open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. to start, with hours to be adjusted later on to best meet local demand.
Richie's Helps Boston Celebrate July 4th
Is there anything more perfect than a warm summer day, a holiday weekend, a great venue featuring The Boston Pops Orchestra and lots of fireworks? Apparently, over 800,000 people thought so as they gathered at the Hatch Shell at the Boston Esplanade for the city’s annual July 4th Celebration. And, Richie’s was there to make the celebration even more enjoyable.
Under bright sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 80s, the huge throng gathered at the Hatch Shell on the south bank of the Charles River for a day of celebration in anticipation of the concert featuring The Boston Pops Orchestra, culminating with the giant July 4th fireworks display.
There were several Richie’s vendors at the venue, serving mouth-watering Richie’s Super Premium all day. As witnessed by the photo, crowds waited in long lines to enjoy a cup of Richie’s refreshing Italian Ice.
The opportunities to have a successful Italian Ice business are very real. If you have a venue with lots of people, the possibilities are endless. Richie’s Super Premium will sell itself, It’s that good!
Goin' to the Beach with Sunset Slush
Growing up in Everett, Massachusetts, Stephen Saia enjoyed Richie's Super Premium Italian Ice; especially Blue Vanilla and Lemon. Richie's Slush was part of growing up in the Boston area. Catherine Saia is from a suburb of Washington, DC and had never tasted Italian Ice, although she loves frozen concoctions. When she moved to Reading, MA, to marry Stephen in 2001, he introduced her to Richie's and she fell in love with the intense flavor of the product - Mango tastes like a real mango, pureed and frozen - it is the best!
Sunset Slush Launched in 2003
Stephen & Catherine moved to Ocean Isle Beach in September 2002. Prior to leaving the Boston area, the Saia's met with Richie Cardillo, Jr. to discuss selling Italian Ice in the Carolinas and southeastern states. Richie and the Saia's agreed to establish a working partnership and, in January, 2003, Stephen & Catherine launched Sunset Slush - Classic Italian Ice in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. The Saia's decided on Sunset Slush as their brand because, as Stephen said, "We wanted to be different. There were a lot of name Italian Ice brands out there, and we wanted something that will fit the beach and surrounding areas."
They purchased the pushcarts and Italian Ice from Richie's and began operating, selling the product on the beaches in and around Ocean Isle Beach. Admittedly, it took some time to familiarize the people in their new market with Italian Ice. As Stephen described, "All the people knew about were sno-cones. Italian Ice was something totally new for them to try." During the first year, the Saia's sold about 90 buckets of Richie's Super Premium under the Sunset Slush brand.
Building the Business
However, the Saia's were diligent in building the business by getting involved in the community. According to Catherine, becoming involved with the area Chamber of Commerce was huge. "We became involved with the Chamber of Commerce, getting to know people and working the many Chamber events. We worked festivals, charity events, special events, you name it, we were there. People in the area became familiar with us and our product," said Catherine.
Sunset Slush continued to grow, especially during the peak vacation months in the Summer. Vacationers from all over come to the North Carolina beaches and when they get there, finding the Sunset Slush pushcarts has become part of their vacation ritual.
Sunset Slush has also introduced numerous exclusive Italian Ice concoctions that have become a big hit, especially on the beaches.
In seven short years, the business has expanded to other areas in North Carolina, including a Sunset Slush venue in Raleigh, North Carolina. You'll see Sunset Slush set-up at a variety of events, including fund raisers, high school football games, college basketball games, professional hockey games, concerts, festivals and charity events.
Sunset Slush Today
As a result, according to Stephen, Sunset Slush sold nearly 6,000 buckets of Richie's Super Premium in 2009.
Now that they are established in North Carolina, the Saia's are excited about prospects for continued growth. According to Catherine, 'We're looking forward to taking our business and our product into new areas."
As for their long-standing relationship with Richie's, the Saia's couldn't be happier. "It's a great product," said Stephen. "Richie has been very good to work with. He's provided us some new flavors, especially the fruity flavors, which are great for our business on the beach. He won't introduce a new product unless he's absolutely convinced it's the best. We like that about Richie."
Enjoying Richie's While You Shop
When you think about enjoying a delicious cup of refreshing Italian Ice, your first thought may be a hot, sunny day on a beach. Did you ever think about enjoying Richie's Super Premium while you shop? For those of you in the greater Boston area, it's true because you now can enjoy Richie's while you're shopping in the mall.
Taking Richie's to the Mall
The concept started in the Fall of 2008 when Sonny Apothekar, a well-known retail entrepreneur in the Boston area, was looking to establish a presence in area malls with food products that shoppers could enjoy during their shopping time. He considered products such as pretzels and popcorn, but was looking for that unique food product that isn't readily available to the consumer, especially during the Winter season in Boston.
Sonny was discussing product options for his venture with a friend when, all of a sudden, his friend suggested, "What about Italian Ice?"
Sonny liked the idea and immediately began investigating resources for Italian Ice products and equipment. He contacted Richie Cardillo, Jr., President of Richie's Super Premium Italian Ice. Richie already had a pushcart rental program in place and put a plan together for Sonny that included a pushcart, Richie's Super Premium Italian ice product and all the necessary supplies to launch the business venture.
Sonny opened for business just prior to the holiday season in 2008, first being open only on weekends. Business exceeded expectations so much that Sonny decided to have the business open seven days-a-week. The business prospered throughout the holiday season, so Sonny decided to extend his lease with the mall and continue operation during the month of January. Business continued to be brisk, thus confirming that people enjoy Richie's Super Premium all year long, even when it's the middle of winter in Boston.
The Concept Has Great Success
Sonny was so impressed with the success he enjoyed last year in one mall that he decided to expand his Italian Ice business in the malls. As a result, Sonny has purchased several Richie's pushcarts and one new kiosk and, in conjunction with Richie, is now open for business this season in nine different malls in and around the greater Boston area.
As Sonny puts it, "Getting into the Italian Ice business exceeded my wildest expectations. I had no idea how it would go, so I started small with one pushcart in one mall. It was amazing how much people loved eating Italian ice while they shopped. Today, we're in nine malls and we're doing very well."
And, Sonny has every intention of growing his mall business venture. "This business has tremendous potential," said Apothekar. "Selling Italian Ice can be very lucrative, especially as a family-owned business."
Great Working Relationship with Richie
Asked about his working relationship with Richie, Apothekar had nothing but kind words.
"Richie is one of the most sincere people I know," said Apothekar. "He has a tremendous passion for his product and will support you every step of the way."