There’s always a cost to starting up a business. Usually it’s money. For Justin Harris, it might be a nickname.
He may forever be known as the Iceman.
“I guess that’s better than some things,” the Steele Creek resident said.
A regional director for a conservation nonprofit, Harris poured all the 28 years of savings into an Ice House America location three years ago.
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“I put the first one in Clover next to the Food Lion three years ago,” he said. “I was just looking for a business to get into.”
Harris was “super dumb lucky” with the Clover location, opening it on Memorial Day to waiting customers. He said he’d never do that again. In October, he opened his second location at 4516 Charlotte Highway in Lake Wylie, beside the former Cafe 49 building, to work out the kinks before the weather heats up and to familiarize the community with what he’s doing.
The stands operate like giant vending machines, dispensing $2 bags or bulk ice to customers.
“I want the community to look at this as their ice house,” Harris said.
An ice house is a six-figure investment. It includes a $10,000 purification system. The 8-foot by 24-foot building requires routine maintenance, and a bag might stick in the chute every now and then.
The Gastonia native saw ice as an investment idea while on a duck hunting trip.
“Most of my friends thought I was absolutely crazy,” he said.
When a polar vortex hits, Harris can be inside the unit with a space heater making sure the lines don’t freeze. But when spring and summer hit, there is a reward.
“People go through a lot of ice,” he said, adding he has seen his ice used for everything from upscale dinner parties to refrigeration for residents without power.
Harris has a distributorship territory in the area and plans to open locations in Fort Mill, York and Newport.
“I’ve got a love for business, and I just thought it was a great idea,” Harris said.