machine owner spotlight
Mark and his brother opened a lawnmower sales and repair shop as part of their retirement plan but quickly found that they could earn additional passive income by investing in the ice vending business!
“Hi, my name is Mark. My brother Todd and I own a Kooler Ice machine that we operate in Pontiac, Illinois as 24/7 Ice. My brother and I grew up right here in Odell on a farm. Of course, we thought that would be our livelihood forever and ever. Then the 1980s happened, and the farming business for us went away, we still have a farm, thank goodness. So we all went our separate ways, my sister, my brother and I, and got our own employment away from the farm. My brother, he was a fireman for 20 some years, or 30 years all together from the time he was a volunteer. I started working for a trucking company in Pontiac and about 2007 I started selling lawnmowers for a national lawnmower manufacturing company.
About two years ago, we purchased the shop that we’re in today. It was much darker place then. We fixed it up quite a bit and remodeled and what have you. My brother and I run the shop here, Triple T Sales and Service located in Odell, Illinois. The three T’s are me, my brother and my father. Without my father’s sacrifices, we wouldn’t have a lot. Most days, I do all the book work in the shop. We both work out in the shop. He’s got a maintenance background so he’s probably, of the two of us, he’s the lead mechanic. I just happen to know more about lawn mowers in specific, but together we make it work.
I started researching the ice vending business probably in about 2010 or 11. A friend of mine in southern Illinois got into the ice business, and he probably worked on me for three, or four years even. I’m like really? Ice? He showed me some numbers, and it’s not a get rich quick scheme, it takes time.
My friend actually has a different brand of ice machines, but as we came farther north, we’re looking at the return on investment and the machines he operates are actually quite a bit more money than the Kooler Ice 2500 that we have, and just couldn’t justify the extra expense. This Kooler Ice made sense. It’s smaller, we could put it in more places, don’t need a crane to unload it, you just do it with a forklift. It was just the all around aspect of the 2500, or any of the Kooler Ice machines, for mobility and versatility I guess you might say, where you can put them, just fit our program better.
Sales for the first year were a little bit discouraging, but just because it was the first year. The second year was markedly different, to the good, and every year has gone up. It’s really been a great experience ever since. I mean, we’ve helped kind of pioneer Kooler Ice through some cold weather issues, cause we’re a little bit further north, but it’s kind of neat to work through them. We had people to work with us. I mean I’ve talked to Carrie in Cleveland, and Tommy, and Scott, Mike Kelly, I’ve seen like the whole crew down there, getting through the cold weather issues. But we did it and now we have the machine sits here, it will make nights in 20 below zero weather.
Since we installed our machine, we have marketed it. We utilize the coupon program from Kooler Ice where you can just hand out coupons that people can come and stick them in the machine and get a free bag of ice. We did that. Of course we do the ever popular Facebook. God only knows what the world would be like without Facebook. Things like that. We get involved in community. We’ll donate free ice to events around town or around the County, all they got to do is pretty much ask us. I’m happy to be on the ice vending business because it allows a certain amount of freedom.
You have to go to the machine and you have to make sure its got bags, make sure it’s got change, make sure it’s clean. That’s a small portion of your time, so it gives you the freedom to be with your family. We get the golf course, they get the lake.
We’re glad that we chose Kooler Ice. Maybe we don’t know the rest of the people in the business, but it’s just been so good to deal with. They’re helpful every time you call. For anyone looking to get into the ice vending business, I would say, “Do it.” Well, like me, I would say, do your research, and then figure out how soon you can set one up, cause it’s that good.”
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