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Nimble Business Turns Ice Delivery into New Revenue Stream

There's more than ice in those Minnesota Ice trucks traveling the greater Twin Cities streets.There's a bevy of local items from Mucci frozen pizzas to Meteor Bar T-shirts.

A new revenue stream for Minnesota Ice came out of chaos and coffee. The chaos, of course, is the effect the coronavirus is having on the economy, and the coffee was that noncaffeinated moment when you run out of coffee as you’re sheltering in place and wish someone would deliver some to you.

Erik Eastman, director of sales for Minnesota Ice, had that moment and then he remembered, “Hey, I deliver.”

He called his friends at Five Watts Coffee and started putting together coffee and ice bundles.  Then came pints of ice cream from Milkjam Creamery, Bittercube bitters and Patisserie 46’s colorful macaroons. And because “everyone in the universe is baking,” he procured 10 bags of flour from Bakers Field, which  promoptly sold out in a couple of days. No order is too unique: They’ll deliver a gallon of Cry Baby Craig’s hot sauce for $90 or three 5-ounce bottles for $15.

Erik Eastman

Like most vendors to the restaurant industry, MN Ice’s sales are down, as the demand for its “pure and clear” ice cubes dries up with bars' and restaurants’ dining rooms no longer open. Pre-COVID-19 they were producing 25,000 2-inch rocks a week, and now restaurants and bars no longer have a need for mass quantities of cubes, shards or logo’d ice cubes. And yet, the company still had refrigerated trucks out on the road to service customers such as gas stations and liquor stores.

While the demand for their ice is down, demand for their quirky list of specialty items is up.

“We’re now doing Meteror Bar in NE (Minneapolis), “ he said. The owners are friends of Eastman and since the bar doesn’t sell food, he came up with the idea to sell their logo’d T-shirts. “I asked for 15 T-shirts, and we sold 18 the first day, just by putting it on our social media. So we tripled our order,” he says.

Another of their regular ice customers, Grand Café, also became a delivery customer. “We saw the brilliant kit they were putting together, and this was a way for us to lessen the number of people coming to the restaurant,” he said about delivering Grand's week's worth of food packages. By adding the offer on Minnesota Ice’s website, they expanded the South Minneapolis restaurant’s reach all the way to Farmington. The kits sell out instantly and are currently being released on Wednesday mornings for a Saturday delivery.

Minnesota Ice now has a catalogue on its website of specific items it will deliver, including Mucci’s frozen pizzas and Broder’s lasagnas. They focused on independent, locally owned businesses that offer frozen items.  “All friends of mine,” he said, who need some help moving local products.

Fees range from $5 for a 10-mile radius and $10 for 20 miles. The deliveries are made around their regular routes and they text the customer the day of or day before to tell them the window in which their delivery will be made.

“I don’t see the demand going away,” Eastman says. “I personally do some of the deliveries myself to see what it’s like. People are super excited when we show up at the door. Not a reason to change or stop this. “

They may be a small operation in the delivery business, but  “we’re nimble and we hustle." A hustle that may last well after the pandemic.

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