Pure Ice Becomes Home City Ice

Ray Boren posted a note on two of the Central High School email newsletters that Pure Ice Co., a Cape institution since 1926 has been sold. I’ve always had a fascination with the place, located at 314 South Ellis, east of where St. Francis Hospital used to be.

I think it started when I’d go to work with my dad. He’d stop by when it was still dark to get ice to fill up the water cans for the job sites. The ice plant made the most delicious noise: there was the Clunk! SLLLLLLLLLLNNNNNNNNKKKKKK WHAM!! sound the ice made as it was released from the bowels of the building, slid down a chute and landed at the end. One experience was all it took for you to learn to NOT to have your fingers where the ice came down the chute.

Finally, there was the Chink! Chink! Chink! as dad chipped the 25-pound blocks into smaller pieces, using a wooden-handled ice pick with Pure Ice printed on it.

After breaking up the ice, he’d halve six or eight lemons, squeeze the juice into the water and throw the peels into the cans. “Lemon juice cuts thirst,” he’d proclaim. (And, he was right.)

Photos date back to 2000

I’m not sure when I started taking pictures of the place. I shot these in 2000, 2010 and 2011. There are others, but I couldn’t put my hands on them right away.

The one thing I HAVEN’T been able to do is talk my way inside the ice plant. I gave it a try this summer, but the owner turned me down because of “safety and insurance” reasons.

When I heard that the ice company had been sold, I gave Home City Ice a call to see if I could get in. Rumor had it that they weren’t making ice there because the product was being trucked in from elsewhere. Surely there can’t be any safety issues to go where equipment isn’t working, right?

After being passed around a couple of times, I was told the Chief Financial Officer, Jay Stautberg, was out of the office, but if I left him a voice mail, he’d get back with me. I did, and much to my surprise, Stautberg returned my call within a couple of hours.

Here’s a shot through the window

He confirmed that they had, indeed bought Pure Ice Co., but he couldn’t give me the OK to shoot inside because they only bought the business and signed a lease for cold storage. The Pure Ice folks had held onto the building. Stautberg also confirmed that the ice sold in Cape was being trucked in from two of their facilities, “but I’m not in operations, so I can’t tell you which ones.”

All in all, he was friendly and helpful. “We’re a family business and they were a family business, so we were a good fit,” he said. Pure Ice signs will gradually be replaced by Home City Ice ones.

A Cape resident said the sale may cause problems for one of his friends who does ice sculptures. He needs blocks of ice weighing as much as 800 pounds. The new company, it was thought, may only supply crushed ice. I hadn’t heard that in time to ask Strautberg, so I don’t have an answer to the question.

Sign was for how much ice to leave

While it’s true that Pure Ice on Ellis dates back to May 26, 1926, I discovered that it actually had its origin in Morrison Ice and Fuel in 1903 in a building that was just torn down for the new casino. Morrison became Riverside Ice and Fuel and was eventually bought out by Pure Ice. When refrigerators first started coming out, Pure Ice sold Coolerator iceboxes, but marketed them as a replacement for the old-fashioned wooden iceboxes (with a $5 trade-in), not as refrigerators as we know them today. Home ice delivery went on in Cape until the 1960s.

The sign above was to be placed in the window so the iceman would know how much ice to drop off. Note the phone number – 44 – only two digits.

Pure Ice photo gallery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.

20 Replies to “Pure Ice Becomes Home City Ice”

  1. Put in your quater and Clunk! SLLLLLLLLLLNNNNNNNNKKKKKK WHAM!! Presto from the bowels of this wonderful building you got a 25 pound block of ice. Then you spent a good 15 minutes chipping it up, and off you went on a wonderful adventure! (Or to work)
    Last night I used my Pure Ice, ice pick to help with a gin a tonic mixture…it seems ice that is chipped with a pick seems to taste better.
    I will be in Cape today it the weather holds and my Lear can get into the airport…or other wise I am hopping Southwest and will be there in the afternoon…if you are still in Cape during the BIRTHDAY SEASON I will give you a call…

  2. The water fountain out front always had the coldest water for drinking. It was really good on a hot summer day.

  3. My Dad used to go there in the summer to get a block of ice to chip up and make homemade ice cream. I can still taste it.

  4. Once a week, grandfather used to bring watermelons up from a farm, put them into the ice plant and then take them out, thoroughly and deliciously chilled, one a day to slice and eat during the afternoon. The ice cold melon on a typical hot, humid Cape summer day was so good!I think they charged him a dime or a quarter per mellon.

    And for some reason, to this day ice chipped from a block seems to cool cocktails better than cubes which, by the way, are themselves much better than chips. I sure hope the new owners will continue to sell blocks.

  5. Didn’t the Harter family own Pure Ice? I know Glen and his brother, whom we called Beast. It is kind of sad to see these old family owned businesses sold, just like Esicar’s.

  6. I finally narrowed it down to #3, #5, #7, & #8 and can’t get past being stuck on #5 and #8.
    I think we might have a tie, but feel free to cast the tie-breaker.

    1. I shot some peeling paint photos on South Sprigg that’ll make those pale in comparison.

      I don’t know when they’ll run. I don’t like to publish too many of those in a row.

  7. Susie, I think you’re right about Harter’s owning the plant. Glen’s brother is Richard and we haven’t seen him at any reunions for many years. Hope you’re doing well. 340 N Henderson:)

  8. My first experience was just like yours, going to get ice for 10 gallon metal Igloo water can for the job site. (Imagine the OSHA inspector these days if a construction foreman took an 8 yr. old kid to work with him in the summer!) I, too, have a Pure Ice Company ice pick at home -“It’s twice as nice as homemade ice!” printed on one side.

  9. During our senior high school year and early college days, my best friend and I discovered we could acquire free ice from the Pure Ice factory. In the alley on the south side of the building, in a recess in the wall was a small square hole in the bricks. Not so clean shaved ice chunks would pour out on the ground in a pile. All we had to do was move a small wire fence and fill up our 5 gallon “pickle” bucket. We both worked at the Dairy Queen on Broadway (now Burrito-ville). Yes, pickles came in 5 gallon buckets. A great way to cool down our cans and/or bottles of beer on our city and Cape county road trips!

    Fred Williams
    CHS class of 1967

  10. Yes Glen and I have sold the company, the next generation didn’t want to continue so we decided to sell.
    There were five people wanting to buy, business values are pretty well set, pay more you pay too much, accept less you got too little,sooooo we sort of got to pick the people we thought would serve the community the best.
    Home City as Jay mentioned is the largest family owned ice company in the country IOW the larger companies are publicly traded ,and believe me when I say their business models are far more impersonal.I have yet to meet a Home City employee who won’t run through brick walls for the company and the customers as well.
    Glen is playing a lot of golf these days, I am coaching wrestling at Notre Dame Regional HS. As a gesture of their commitment to the community and Catholic education they are matt sponsors for Notre Dame along with Nip Kelley Equipment our matts display those two companies names.
    I’d like to add here that the gesture was not anything unusual for Home City nor Vince and Jan Kelley,I had to MAKE Vince take the advertising ,he wanted no recognition,Home City holds an annual employee golf tournament where their employees raised $35,000 which the company matched and was donated to the Cincinnati inner city Catholic schools.
    The silver silos in the pictures are old water treatment “settling tanks” which have been out of use for 20 years ,the rusty cylinder below them is a receiver for ammonia it has also been emptied and out of use for 15 year (we quit using ammonia because it was dangerous in the old system ,all the production equipment had been replaced and even computerized)just the building was from “back in the day”.

    The building has been nominated for recognition in the national historic register by a SEMO grad student (Adam Kerr).We are toying with making part of it a museum.

    Ken if you’d like some more historical references contact Harold Sanders (Linda’s dad) former A&P manager and Schnucks liquor dept mgr. He has some awesome pictures ,including one of his father driving a Pure Ice truck hauling the then worlds tallest man in a parade. Robert Wadlow was in town promoting International Shoe company who custom made his shoes.

    I want to say thanks to everyone who made Pure Ice a successful enterprise and send a “shout out” to my “peeps’ Mike “the racquetball king” Taylor and Susie “Pik” O’Connell.

    Richard “Beast” Harter

    P.S. During my junior year Central “put on” the musical “Bye Bye Birdie”, I played the mayor of Sweet Apple ,Ohio (a suburb of Cinn.?) as luck would have it Notre Dame is “putting on” Bye Bye Birdie this spring and my youngest son ( Austin) is a junior at Notre Dame,I am encouraging him to try out for the part of mayor or any other part they will have him in. His silhouette is much slighter than mine so he may not be a good “type cast” as I was.
    God Bless You all and have a totally politically incorrect Christmas.

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