Sweet Success

Italian ice never looked so hot.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the May 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

If you're a Philadelphia firefighter who wants a secondary income, how do you come up with a solid idea? Bob Tumolo, 49, president of Rita's Water Ice Franchise Corp., took a shower.

It was while in the shower at the gym that Tumolo overheard a conversation between two men discussing business, money and fat-free, cholesterol-free desserts called water ice. That meeting resulted in the opening of the first Rita's Water Ice in May 1984, in a suburb of Philadelphia. The first store did so well that it grew to four and began franchising in 1989. Now Tumulo has the nation's largest Italian ice chain. Not bad for a company with start-up costs of only $20,000. With current sales figures of $38 million and 2,500 employees in 209 stores, Rita's Water Ice Franchise Corp. is booming.

With Rita's operating in nine states, Tumolo takes a careful approach to growth. "In 1996, we were gearing up for a progressive growth strategy and it never materialized. So what we've done now is taken a step back," he says. "Our goal is to be a strong regional company rather than a national one, to be strong from DC to Boston."

Rita's trademark: including natural ingredients in their 19 flavors of water ice and five flavors of cream ice, adding chunks of fruit to the desserts and ensuring freshness by throwing out any unused product. Tumolo's life is very different from his days of fighting fires . . . or is it? Of the time after he started the business but before he quit firefighting, Tumolo remembers, "My mom manned the store while I was at my fire-fighter job. I was working right around 100 hours a week. Now, I work closer to 99." Spoken like a true entrepreneur.

Contact Source

Rita's Water Ice Franchise Corp., (800) 677-RITA, www.ritasice.com.

More from Entrepreneur

Terry's digital marketing expertise can help you with campaign planning, execution and optimization and best practices for content marketing.
Book Your Session

In as little as seven months, the Entrepreneur Authors program will turn your ideas and expertise into a professionally presented book.
Apply Now

Are paying too much for business insurance? Do you have critical gaps in your coverage? Trust Entrepreneur to help you find out.
Get Your Quote Now

Latest on Entrepreneur

My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.