Amy’s Ice Cream in Austin

Austin prides itself on many things, and having independent retailers around town would be one. Amy’s Ice Cream got its start in Austin back in 1984, and currently is one of Austin’s pride and joys.

Amy Simmons got the ice cream bug while attending college at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. She was majoring in Pre-Med and working for Steve’s Ice Cream shop, and ended up putting off medical school to help the ice cream business grow. Steve’s ended up being bought out by another company, and Amy decided to start her own ice cream business, and chose Austin after reading about the high-tech boom in the Economist. She talked to a slew of local businesses, such as Chuy’s and Texas French Bread, and the decision was final. Amy moved to town, wrote a hot check for the lease of the original Amy’s Ice Cream location on Guadalupe, and a new Austin legacy was born.

Though Amy’s Ice Cream started with one location, 24 years later, there are 14 stores, including one in Houston and one in San Antonio. In Amy’s first year of business, 125,000 servings of ice cream were sold, and today well over one million are sold, with gross sales topping $5 million. Amy’s has also reached out into the wholesale business, and supplies her frozen treats to over 50 restaurants around town.

Since the business has grown so large recently, Amy Simmons built a new factory on Burnet Road, converting the old Allandale post office into energy-efficient new headquarters. The old factory made 200,000 gallons of ice cream a year, while this factory doubles that amount. Amy, along with Michael Hsu of Dick Clark Architecture, designed the new factory from scratch, and also transformed a neighboring 1940s Sinclair Gas Station into a new Amy’s location, and a casual dining restaurant called Phil’s Ice House. The residents of the Allandale neighborhood couldn’t be more excited about the new Amy’s factory and the transformation of their old neighborhood structures, which features a giant playground for kids, and shows movies outside on warm, Texas nights.

One of Amy’s Ice Creams stand out features, besides their fabulous and daring flavors like Shiner Bock ice cream, is their employees. These creative souls seem to always be in a great mood, and have no fear flinging scoops of ice cream around the store, and catching them in cups balanced on their chins. Though some have moved on to more prosperous full-time careers, there are those employees that don’t want to leave Amy’s, and will do both. The new Phil’s Ice House is a memorial to Phillip Clay, who worked for Amy’s for 17 years, giving tours through the Amy’s factory to kids, before dying in a motorcycle accident. All potential employees fill out an application- a white paper bag that must be brought back with information about themselves, assuring only the most creative souls get a shot at scooping ice cream. Amy admits it wasn’t always this way, but she handed a sack to one girl when she’d run out of applications. The applicant floated the bag back into the store, suspended by a helium balloon with the sack stuffed full of items about herself.

In 2004, when Amy’s had its 20 year anniversary, the company held a carnival open to the public to help benefit the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, and also handed out free ice cream to all customers at each Austin store for six and half hours on November 1st. Amy’s also donates gift certificates to any educational, non-profit, or children’s charity, and turns none away. Amy Simmons is not striving to become a mega company with many stores, and doesn’t plan on opening any outside of Texas, concentrating her tasty endeavors here in Austin.

Hoshizaki Ice Maker Buyer’s Guide

Hoshizaki is one of the best known names in the restaurant industry. The company was created in the late 1940’s in Japan. Today Hoshizaki is among the top manufacturers of refrigeration equipment for the food and hospitality industries worldwide. Most of the equipment sold in United States is manufactured locally. From 2005 to 2008 Hoshizaki has won the Dealer Design Award.

Some of the equipment offered by Hoshizaki includes: cube ice makers, flake ice machines, filtration systems, storage, ice dispensers, preparation tables, refrigerated displays, remote condensed units, stands, water dispensers, countertop and undercounter fridges.

This article will discuss the most important aspects to be considered when buying a commercial ice making equipment, and it should help you find the right Hoshizaki product for your business’ needs.

Certain types of ice are specific to an application. Restaurants are going to need a different type of ice than for example a physical therapist office or a school’s physical education department. Physical therapists use nugget ice because it is good for therapeutic applications. It helps slow inflammation, swelling and minimizes pain after an injury has occurred.

Nugget ice is versatile and slow melting. It cools drinks rapidly without foaming, and provides high liquid displacement which results in increased profits. Nugget ice is often used in bar fountain beverages, blended cocktails, salad bars, produce displays. It is also suggested for therapeutic uses and patient care.

Diced cubed ice is the most commonly used type of ice. It is perfect for mixed drinks, carbonated beverages, ice dispensing, ice displays, ice retailing and banquet services.

Flaked ice consists of dry flakes, which cool more quickly than other ice forms. It molds to any shape which is useful in displays and salad bars. Flaked ice is also ideal for health care facility use in therapeutic patient care.

One of the more common mistakes that people make is underestimating the amount of ice that they in fact need for their facility. In general you should lean towards over-sizing the ice bin. Here is an example of a situation where over-sizing an ice bin was a great decision by a customer:

A customer buys an ice maker that produces 300 lbs of ice and a bin that holds that quantity plus has additional room for another 50 lbs of ice. The customer lets his ice machine run until the bin has reached its maximum fill capacity. For two days he serves 300 lbs of ice and on the third day he has more business. Were it not for the cushion he gave himself by purchasing a bin that could hold more ice he would not have been able to serve his customers, which would have equaled a loss of profit. Going to a larger bin costs a lot less than increasing the size of the machine. Generally, electrical costs are less at night and the kitchen is cooler, making the machine more effective. Ice in the bin can generally last 24 hours if the cover is not left open. Additionally, no bin is ever allowed to fill to its true capacity because a sensor stops making ice when the bin is filled to about 3/4 capacity. This is another reason to buy a larger bin.

One more thing to keep in mind is that most units will not produce the amount of ice they are said to produce unless conditions are perfect (cold water and ambient temp). With that in mind assess whether or not your location has these ideal conditions. If not then choose a model that makes more ice and/or consider a larger bin so that night production can be captured.

It is very important to pick a machine based on your capacity to keep it in a well ventilated area. A well ventilated area is one that is below 80°. Ice machines are cooled by one of three ways: air-cooled, water-cooled and remote air-cooled.

Air-cooled ice makers use the most energy but in the long run are not as expensive as water-cooled machines. They are also favorable in locations where the cost of water is high.

Water-cooled models are more efficient and ideal for locations where the environment is hostile (i.e. high ambient air and water temperatures).

Remote air-cooled models work by moving heat created by the ice making process away from the machine and outside of the building. The remote air condenser should be placed somewhere where the temperature is as moderate and consistent as possible. Such models are ideal for locations where the ambient temperature is over 80°. Remote air-cooled models generally require extra installation costs however the upside is that they save money on additional indoor air conditioning costs because the heat they generate gets pushed outside of the facility. Additionally, a remote unit will run more efficiently and produce more ice.

Using a factory recommended filter reduces servicing needs by as much as 60%. It also produces better tasting ice.

Fall to Winter – Water to Ice

There is no doubt fall has left and winter has arrived. Our deciduous trees have shed their leaves. Early morning frost and warm days have turned to frozen ground and bone chilling winds. Activity on our lake is represented by a few ducks splashing in the slightly warmer creek fed waters. As the days pass, a thin coating of ice will begin to form around the shoreline and eventually across the various coves. Soon the lake will be covered with winter ice increasing in thickness by each passing day. As the ice thickens, so does the excitement level of our ice fisherman! Yes, it is time to put those augers, tip-ups, spears and light fishing gear back to work.

We are anxious to get out on the ice. Is it thick enough? Ice fishing is one of the most dangerous methods of fishing. Caution must be taken, especially when we are so eager to get started. There have been many accidents on our lake. Unfortunate stories have been told of hummers, trucks, cars, snowmobiles, animals and of course people breaking through the ice. A sure way to start the season off on the wrong foot. Some fisherman risk walking on ice at two and a half inches, when experts recommend a minimum of four inches. Ice thickness varies, especially in lakes with greatly varying depths. Our lake can drop twenty feet in a lateral distance of eight feet. This means the ice thickness will vary greatly early in the season. Six inches is recommended for sleds and snow mobiles. Ten inches for smaller vehicles and at least 16 solid inches for full sized trucks. In our seven years on the lake, the ice thickness was over 10 inches only once.

There are other risks to be aware of when out on the ice. Frostbite can occur from prolonged exposure to wind and the low temperatures. Proper winter clothing is essential. These days there are great huts, tents and shelters that can be quickly erected for escape from the harsh temperatures and biting winds. Some ice fishermen have more permanent shelters, usually on wheels, that can be towed onto the ice. These shelters often have bathrooms, stoves, beds and even satellite television. If you have a shelter with heat, proper ventilation is critical. Some fishermen lost their lives on the ice due to carbon monoxide poisoning. The greatest risk and most deaths have occurred from hypothermia. This is when the body temperature falls too low. It is important to educate yourself on hypothermia and all the other potential risks prior to heading out onto the ice. The goal is to have fun and be safe!

Time to fish. There are many different approaches to ice fishing. All approaches have some factors in common. Fish do not expend much energy under the ice. No need to have your bait do so either. In fact, too much motion will actually deter the fish. Depth is critical. Do a little research prior to heading out on the ice. The species of fish determines the depth of the fish. For example, crappie and bass will be found at different depths. This is one time a bobber is important. Use a slip bobber to set the proper depth. The bobber will also serve as a good visual for when there is action below. Fishing for bluegills and perch? Send the bait to the bottom. Some bouncing action will entice them to your bait. Chum is a good way to attract some attention too. This activity created by other fish feeding can draw lower energy fish to the site. In shallow waters, it is a good idea to cover your fishing hole. Light penetrating through the hole can scare fish away from your bait. There you have it – the rest is up to you. Have fun and catch some fish!

Educational Toys Come Out From the Cold

My son Jack and I took some time out from playing with the educational toys he received for Christmas and went to a hockey game over the holidays. Like most 7 year olds, his favorite part is when the Zamboni comes out to clean the ice. We had seen this a thousand times so I was stymied when Jack said, “Why is there smoke coming out of the back?” It’s steam I told Jack, they use hot water because it freezes faster. I could see the wheels turning now and knew I was getting in over my head. “But ice is cold, shouldn’t they use cold water, Dad”. Well, there was only one period to go and a thousand questions, most of which I didn’t have the answers to, so I told Jack that when we got home we would do our own science experiment to see whether hot or cold water froze faster.

To get the most out of this I thought we should treat it as a science project. I looked through some of the science toys Jack had and found a science kit that showed how to do some experiments. Jack and I made a plan and a list of all the things we’d need. We also searched the internet to see if there were any educational toys that might help us. We didn’t find any educational toys, but we did find some very interesting facts.

It turns out there are at least 3 physical processes that would explain why hot water freezes faster. First, hot water contains less dissolved air, this is why fish can die in very warm water, a lack of oxygen. Liquids conduct heat much better than gas so hot water would cool much more rapidly. Secondly, in a pool of warm water, the water at the surface would be hotter than the water below, hot water rises. This would create a larger temperature difference with the air and cool the water faster. Third, the warm water would initially melt the ice on the ground, forming a better bond that would cool the water faster. This also prevents layers of ice from chipping away.

So we filled up a jug with hot tap water and a second jug with cold water. We took 2 plastic cups and a short 2×4 outside. We filled each cup half full, the red one with hot water and the blue one with cold water and set them on the walk. Then we found a patch of ice on the driveway, laid the 2×4 in the center, and poured hot water on one side and cold water on the other side. It was 18 F so we went in to warm up.

We came back out an hour later. The 2 cups were mostly water. The red one had some ice above the water line and the blue one had some ice on the outer edge of the water surface.
On the driveway, both sides of the 2×4 had turned to ice. When we touched the ice we could see our fingerprint on the cold water side. The hot water side was frozen solid.
We weren’t sure what we just proved but we rushed back inside, wrote down our observations, drew a few pictures and had some hot chocolate before bedtime. I knew Jack was going to be excited when he explained his science experiment to his class on Monday.

So next time you see that steam rising behind the Zamboni you’ll know why. As for my backyard ice rink, if I can only wrap the garden hose around the barbeque.