Making ice a hot new business for Marion team

Merle Flaming and Alan Regier have developed a favorite saying: “It’s cool being in the ice business.”

It’s natural they should think so. They been selling their packaged, tubed “Frostbite Ice” made in Marion since March.

Despite the natural chill in the business, the pair has warmed up to 25 steady customers. The strong demand for ice in a geographic region ranging from Inman, Buhler and Newton up to Lincolnville and Herington makes it “really cool” being a new business, they say.

It was Flaming who first saw the need and got excited about being in the packaged ice business.

“I’d been wanting to do it for several years,” he said.

The ice business is seen as a natural extension of Flaming’s heating and cooling business, especially since he could do the plumbing, wiring and equipment modification or fabrication himself.

When he found that his friend, Regier, could help him, Flaming was ready to go.

Flaming had been watching Regier’s ice business, and visiting with him for sometime. Regier can make blocked ice at his home in Goessel. He and his daughters, Jenny Epp and Sarah Regier, make shaved ice to flavor and sell in Hillsboro.

Flaming and Regier began making and stockpiling the tubed ice from charcoal-filtered water in Marion in October.

Flaming and Regier like to say they are “partnering” in Frostbite Ice, but Flaming is the actual owner with his “mom,” Eva, and wife Michelle.

The ice is made from Marion water that has been further filtered and purified. It comes out of the machine in nearly a cascading waterfall of half-frozen ice that finishes freezing in the bag.

Flaming said completing the freezing process in the bag helps prevent freezing and thawing that causes chipped or cubed products to clump together.

The need Flaming saw in creating the business centered on the size of the communities in which the convenience and grocery stores he serves are located.

He said the ice business had centralized to only one company serving the entire region. He said the company was reserving ice for its largest customers on holidays. This resulted in stores in smaller towns having low supplies during holidays such as Memorial Day.

Flaming said a small local company was needed to make sure smaller merchants had an adequate supply of ice. Since he could make a bag of ice that could retail for less than $2, he “found the ice field wide open.”

Because Flaming can do his own construction, he can expand the business at his own pace. He said it will happen “step by step as more money comes in.”

The two men foresee a business that may require four more workers as early as this summer.

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