The reason our founder, Diana, became the first supplier of ice in Manchester has its origins back in the 1970s. So, hop into the passenger seat of our Way Back Machine and let us take you on a journey through the UK ice trade.
Diana’s husband George (my dad) spent a business lifetime in commercial refrigeration – ‘flogging fridges’ – as he put it. The choice of career came from his dad, who also worked in the temperature control trade both over in the US and then back in the UK in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
One day in the late 1970s dad went to see a customer in the Midlands. Now, this fellow had worked out that within 50 miles of his business premises there were 7 race courses that could use ice for meets during the whole flat and jump season and wanted to talk about acquiring fifteen or so Scotsman ice makers.
Over supper, that night dad said to mum what an interesting idea it was, and without knowing it, planted a seed that would take nearly thirty years to germinate. Diana was busy over all the years raising a family, making a home and doing a range of jobs but in the mid-1990s, when her husband was starting to think about retirement, the idea for an ice company in Manchester came back to her.
Diana’s always been a do-er, and very soon she had found out from dad who makes the best ice machines in the world. The answer came back Hoshizaki. And you know what she did? She bought one machine, and a chest freezer and installed them in her garage at home. Then she got a load of flyers printed up, used the yellow pages to find names and addresses of bars, restaurants and pubs in Manchester and literally went door to door canvassing.
It still surprises us, but even in 2021, some people are blown away by the concept of buying ice at a venue. So, imagine the reaction back when Dry was pretty much the only bar in that part of town and ‘cocktails’ in most people’s minds may be stretched to a Port & Lemon?
Still, the forward-thinking operators did ‘get it’ and soon Diana had a loyal group of regular customers.
Now, let’s pull a sharp right and talk about ice supply UK-wide at this stage. The biggest and most successful Ice company started putting ice on supermarket shelves back in the late 1980s. Ice companies had sprung up in a handful of places across the UK, most noticeably London where The Ice Box were the de-facto operator. They also saw the benefit of branching out into sculptural ice work (along with Hamiltons also out of London), and later on, artisan ice products. Box’s owner, Philip Hughes, was a great business friend and mentor to Diana in the early days, and we still keep in touch all these years later. Of course, London’s a market unto itself, and now there are multiple ice companies but Ice Box and Hamilton’s were definitely the first.
Soon ice companies sprang up in all four corners of the UK, from Cornwall to Glasgow, and we kept a record of them in case we had an enquiry we couldn’t service. Dad calls it ‘The Cuba Nostra’.
Anyway, back in the room.
By the early 2000s, we were being asked for sculptures and spirit luges (remember them?!) and via The Ice Box we always helped where we could, but not long after two great lads from Liverpool found us at one of the NRB shows. They were straight out of design courses and set up Glacial Ice, and their work we think, is up with the best the world has to offer.
Ice Cubed had grown significantly over this time, from a garage and a VW golf making deliveries and the ice being packaged by Diana and her friends, to a dedicated unit and van, to multiple vans, split packaging shifts and all the rest that comes with a burgeoning business. We’re always on the lookout for operatives by the way. If you’re fit, active and local we could use you!
By the early 2010s, visionaries like Camper English had identified the need for luxury ice in luxury cocktails and Ice Cubed started offering these items to a handful of local bars that understood the concept.
By 2016 that provision became its own company ‘Black Ice CPD’ and today we provide bespoke ice pieces to a range of clients across the North of England.
Oh, I came on board in the early 2000s. It was just for a while to see how I liked it…
Well, thanks for reading and as a bonus for getting this far, here’s a few useful facts we’ve discovered over the years:
- If your event starts at 6 PM, order your ice for delivery 1-2 hours ahead. Our ice is cold tempered and will not melt in the meantime. We have multiple tips to keep our ice in great condition, even until the next day!
- If you want to chill bottles and cans, buy the 42-litre flexitubs. Each one will hold 12-18 bottles of wine, 30-40 cans or bottles of single-serve drinks and over 50 cans of soft drink. Layer the tubs with our ice and drinks, like a club sandwich. Each tub will take about one of our 15KG sacks
- With ice for drinks, plan for each of your guests to use about 0.75 – 1KG of ice for the duration of the event. It’s always better to have slightly too much, than too little!
- If you are outside of our delivery area, your local supermarket should always be able to help given advance notice. Whilst ice in-store is merchandised in 2KG pouches, these are stored out back in 12KG boxes. Use the calculations above to work out your requirement!
Thanks again for reading and we hope to see you the next time when you need an ice supplier in Manchester!
Up Next: Chilling Martinis – What’s Up With That? a scia-metific experiment