Rita’s Italian Ice
It is the first day of spring and Olivia Roehrich wants a water ice.
Nevermind it is 37 degrees and windy. In her furry coat with the bunny ears lined in hot pink, Olivia, with help from her mother Melissa Roehrich, joins other frozen treat fans in line at Rita’s Italian Ice in Macungie.
On the first day of spring, Rita’s Italian Ice nationwide gives free treats to dessert lovers.
“Last year they came out in snow,” Greg Rhoads, owner of Rita’s Italian Ice locations in Macungie, Wescosville and Dorney Park, said while preparing for crowds at the Macungie location. Despite cooler temperatures, Rhoads is busy opening patio umbrellas and straightening line markers in preparation. As he does every year, Rhoads has arranged with local fire police to help control traffic. He also arranges employee parking with owners of a nearby business to leave more parking spaces for Rita’s customers.
Carolyn Rhoads, co- owner, store manager and Greg’s wife, manages the larger-than-usual staff to assist customers on the first day of spring and has done so since the store opened about a decade ago.
But this year is a bit different.
This year Greg, Carolyn, their son Tyler, operations manager and their staff earned the distinction of Rita’s Italian Ice “Franchise of the Year.”
Unable to make the ceremony, Rhoads sent Tyler and some of the staff, all expenses paid, to the Rita’s Italian Ice annual meeting in Atlantic City. Rhoads saw the opportunity as a good experience. He had no idea what awaited the team.
“He texted me,” Rhoads said with a smile, recalling the moment he got the news of the award from Tyler.
Cierra Parodi, local franchise business consultant for Rita’s Italian Ice, nominated the Rhoads family for the award. Guests are always happy and Greg Rhoads is always helpful to other franchisees, were among the points Parodi noted in her nomination.
In an email to The Press, Lauriena Borstein, senior vice president of operations at Rita’s Italian Ice, noted the dedication the Rhoads family has shown.
“They truly embody Rita’s mission of happiness, running their businesses and serving their guests day in and day out with a smile on their faces,” Borstein wrote, further describing the family as “an asset to the entire Rita’s system.”
“We’ve been blessed with employees that are respectful and know how to do the job well all at the same time,” Tyler Rhoads said. “Blessed is the perfect word.”
Greg Rhoads was working in the banking field when he started noticing lines of people outside Rita’s Italian Ice stores. He researched opportunities with the company.
The Macungie location opened first and was an early success. Rhoads next sought an opportunity with Cedar Fair, owners of Dorney Park, approaching the amusement park company with the new idea of opening locations in the park, a completely new venture for Rita’s Italian Ice at the time Rhoads proposed the idea. The Rhoads franchise now includes four locations, two stores and two carts, in Dorney Park. Other franchisees have since opened Rita’s Italian Ice locations in other Cedar Fair parks.
The Rhoads’ franchise expanded in 2016 with the addition of the location on Hamilton Boulevard. The store opened March 12 after $35,000 in renovations and upgrades.
All locations are within a 10-minute drive of the family home.
Approximately 65 people work in the six locations. Interviews for new employees are conducted each year at the Macungie Institute. Applicants who show strong communications skills often are hired. And many employees return to work season after season. One employee has gone on to be a doctor and now stops in the Macungie store to visit, Greg Rhoads said.
Rita’s Italian Ice stores offer a variety of frozen treats including gelati, ice cream made in the Italian style. But... “The money is in the ice,” Greg Rhoads joked.
Rita’s debuts new flavors each season. Jolly Rancher green apple flavor is among this year’s new flavors. And there are perennial flavors. Mango ice is a must at every Rita’s store, Rhoads said.
Fudge brownie is a particular favorite flavor of customers at the Macungie store.
However, not so for Olivia Roehrich on this first day of spring 2016.
Olivia wants cherry. Her mom, Melissa, does, too.
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