Offbeat: Home Ice Co.

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - 75 year old Sam Rosse is the boss and has been coolin it down on Cate Street since 1978, when he took over Home Ice Co. and started blocking and bagging ice.

"A fella once asked me what I do around here and I told him I just hand around and cool it," said Rosse.

The Home Ice building was built in 1896 for a wagon factory, then it became a peanut factory at the turn of the century, then an ice cream plant in 1916 and went all ice and no cream in 1926. A look around indicates not much has changed in the last 30 years or been picked up, Rosse calls it organized chaos.

After you've been here 30 years, you know where everything's at, because you probably put it there," said Rosse about the mess. "In the busy time, ain't got time to put up and cleanup like you should and in the down time that's all you're doing."

The compressor in the basement has been turning the belts since 1916, moving the water and the ammonia refridgeration all the way up to the roof.  The turbo ice maker is on the roof and that's where the water is frozen in sheets and augers chop it up.

"As long as it works, no need for a new one," said Rosse. "It's mostly pipes and compressors and electric motors.  It's just like your home fridge, same thing, just a bigger scale."

According to Rosse, in the early days, block ice was all they made, they used it for air conditioning and refridgeration.  Now block ice is only ten percent of the business, sold mostly to fish farms, with bag ice making up the other 90 percent of the business.

Rosse has 8 employees, Cecile's been with him since the beginning, and the plant pumps out about 100 tons a day, serving 150 customers, including grocery stores, liquor stores, convenience stores and Walmart. At one time there were plenty of ice houses around, but these days Home Ice is virtually alone.

"Sooner of later there was four ice plants in Jonesboro and just about everybody had at least one," said Rosse. "All the others are gone. I'm the only one left and as long as there's a demand, I'm gonna sell it.

Sam says the secret to his longevity and success is simple:  dependable service.

Rosse gets up every day and turns on everything around 4 a.m. and still helps on the bagger when he's needed. He says that's the worst part of the job but there is a best part too.

"Collecting that money," said Rosse, laughing. "I love collecting that money."

It's been enough money to put four kids through college and provide food for his family and Rosse says he hopes one of his boys will take over Home Ice, if he ever quits.

"Everybody gets tired of somthing they're doing and wish they was doing something else, but I ain't gonna change now," said Rosse. "I'm gonna be here till I get tired of it I guess. There's no other reason to quit. I hope they don't run me off, cause I'd like to stay here for another 30 years."