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Ice Makers Say Summer Business No Drop in The Bucket

July 4, 1991

ATLANTA (AP) _ Ice maker C.F. Sinagra has been watching the temperatures climb into the 90s, and he thinks that’s just cool.

This is the time of year when Sinagra, manager of Midsouth Ice Co. in Atlanta, does half his annual business. Production this week - the busiest of the year because of the Fourth of July holiday - was more than 300 tons a day, he said.

Ice for restaurants, ice for picnickers’ coolers, ice for parties. Sinagra has been making ice for 20 years, and he loves the summer.

″Summertime, it’s when the ice man is busy,″ said Sinagra, whose son, Charles Sinagra, also runs an ice business.

Business tends to melt away with colder weather, but the ice industry blazes in the summer.

″The weather is the No. 1 factor in this business,″ said Mike Olson, executive vice president of the Packaged Ice Association, the industry’s trade organization based in Raleigh, N.C.

″All the meetings of our industry are held in the fall, winter or early spring,″ Olson said. ″It’s the only time they can leave their plants.

″This is our biggest week, followed closely by the Labor Day holiday.″

Many of the ice companies are family enterprises that closely guard revenue and sales figures. Olson said the 230 plants that belong to the association have combined annual revenues of about $400 million.

Charles Sinagra, owner of Atlanta Ice Inc., said about 95 percent of his business is in packaged ice, the kind usually sold in 10-pound bags at convenience or grocery stores. The rest is sold as blocks of up to 400 pounds or sculpted for decorations at weddings and other occasions.

″You get people who want a big block of ice to chill a swimming pool, that kind of stuff,″ the younger Sinagra said. ″But there’s not a tremendous market for block ice ... that era is about 30 years ago.″

Morris Segall of Montgomery, Ala., who has been with his family in the ice business since the 1930s, said ice-making technology has changed much over the years. But as for the finished product, he said, there’s nothing new under the sun.

″It’s 95 degrees, people are hot, they buy a lot of ice,″ said Segall, co-owner of the Nathan Segall Ice Co.

Segall said he got out of the ice-making business about five years ago because many of the hotels and restaurants he served had installed their own ice machines. Now he sells packaged ice made elsewhere.

″I’ve been down here since 1931 - that’s 60 years,″ he said. ″In those days there were no ice machines. People had to come down here to get their ice.″

These days, said C.F. Sinagra, ice-making is a more sophisticated business, with huge machines that make and crush the ice, then drop it into storage areas for bagging.

Indeed, several in the industry, including Sinagra, are pushing for ice to be classified by the government as a food product so official inspections would quell any public concerns about its sanitation.

″We’re a service-oriented food business,″ Sinagra said. ″Ice is a food and we deal with it as a food.″

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