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Sweet Success

Italian ice never looked so hot.

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.

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