Make us your home page
Instagram
Everybody's Business

Owners hopes to bring days of old to Lutz neighborhood with Italian ice

LUTZ — Watching Kurt Halls scoop Italian ice out of a freezer in a tiny roadside stand on N Dale Mabry Highway, you wouldn't know he has clients on the Fortune 500 list.

From his stand, which opened in May, Halls sometimes operates his own consulting company as a corporate recruiter. He has a couple of freezers, a shelf of snow cone syrup flavors — and his laptop in a 100-square-foot shed.

His corporate job, which he works from home most days, pays the bills. But it's Ice Delites and the neighborhood customers that bring him joy.

"I wanted a throwback to a time when people walked up and got to know their neighborhood ice cream parlor," said Halls, 41.

Halls, his wife, Michelle, and their 11-year-old daughter live not far from the stand, tucked in front of a BP gas station just south of Lutz-Lake Fern Road in Lutz.

"I think people are yearning for simplicity. I'm trying to bring back that small-town feel," said Halls, which is why he wanted to stay close to home with his new venture.

"This is our neighborhood," he said.

Originally from St. Croix, Halls moved to Orlando as a teenager and came to Tampa in 1998. Four years ago, when the recession slowed business at the Halls Group LLC, he started looking for something to supplement his income. He invested in a pushcart, which came with all the Italian ice and everything he needed to show up to an event.

"I thought it sounded fun. I always wanted a lemonade stand as a kid and never got one," he joked.

One of his first gigs was a softball tournament at Ed Radice Park. His Italian ice, sold in little baseball helmets for $5 a cap, were a huge hit. Not only did Halls have fun, but he also discovered a high profit margin.

Eventually, he added two more pushcarts and a few employees, and after a few years of selling Italian ice at baseball games, softball games, and parties and events, he decided to open an actual shop.

"I remember the day it occurred to me. I was walking out of my garage and I hit my toe on one of my big freezers," Halls said.

He figured his freezers that stored product and ran up his electric bill during the week could be put to better use at a permanent location. His wife, who helps him run the business, thought he was crazy.

"I tend to do whatever, then figure it out," Halls said. "She's the practical one."

Rather than rent retail space, they settled on a compromise: a customized shed. They added a front porch and windows where customers can walk up and order their frozen treats.

Halls says he enjoys bringing adults back to a time when they got Italian ice from the ice cream truck and watching kids experience that joy for the first time.

His nondairy Italian ice is made of just fruit and ice, with no high-fructose corn syrup. It comes in eight flavors in sizes from $3 to $5, including the $5 baseball caps, which are refillable for $3.

"I have customers who've saved their caps for years and still come back for refills," said Halls.

For those who want the sugary counterpart, he also sells 15 flavors of snow cones (ice and flavored syrup) from $2 to $4.

The roadside business has been so successful that Halls is opening a second location in July, this time in an actual retail space at the corner of U.S. 54 and Collier Parkway, just north of the Pasco County line, in the Willow Bend shopping center. The three pushcarts also are still in operation.

The new 750-square-foot space will have indoor seating, and the menu will be expanded to include fruit smoothies and soft-serve ice cream. From its menu to its decor, Halls said, "it'll be an homage to frozen treats of the past."

Elizabeth Miller can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

>> if you go

Ice Delites

Located at 18901 N Dale Mabry Highway, the shop is open seasonally, from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Call (813) 200-8785.

Owners hopes to bring days of old to Lutz neighborhood with Italian ice 06/21/12 [Last modified: Thursday, June 21, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Gov. Scott's tough talk on Venezuela may not turn into economic action

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — To show his solidarity with Venezuelans, Gov. Rick Scott held a rally in South Florida and repeatedly promised to punish companies that do business with the Nicolás Maduro regime.

    Gov. Rick Scott held a rally July 10 at El Arepazo restaurant to show solidarity with Venezuelans. Scott has said he wants to punish companies that work with the Nicol?s Maduro regime.
  2. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  4. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  5. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]