Local Ice Company Adds New Dimension
Text & Photo by Celeste H. Breitenbach
It's easy to drive by and not notice the non-descript white concrete block building at 6100 Belair Rd. Time, too, seemingly passed by for the AAA Ice Co., Inc. since William J. Huber built the building and his business which passed down to his son-in-law and grandson. But that grandson put a new spin on the old business by adding a new dimension.
Although he tried photography, was a set designer and worked or channel 13 (I worked with before she was rich and famous!" he quips.) "I was always here in some capacity and just gravitated into it."
"From the mid '40s to '70s, business went down considerably," says McPherson. "When Harborplace opened, I saw the opportunity to deliver ice. In the '8Os, I started delivering to hotels and met Vivot Hong Pong from Thailand who carved for Stouffers. I watched him carve. He changed my world! I was good in art and I had an ice company and lots of ice. I went out and bought a chain saw and fee chisels and started carving for small family functions. Everyone was telling me how nice they were and I started marketing and it just opened up."
An ice reindeer for a Christmas brunch at Marrott's Hunt Valley was his first public piece- Now McPherson sells 300 to 400 carvings a year for anything from backyard shindigs to high-end corporation parties- They can cost from $50 for a half-block clam shell carving that the client picks up at the ice house to fill with shrimp for a private party to the $8,000 most expensive carving he's ever done
John McPherson once carved an entire bar out of ice. He did carvings for the Rolling Stones, KISS, Will Smith's wedding, Cal Ripken's MVP Award, the Inaugural Ball, and a larger-than-life, 9-foot-tall Mike Tyson in a boxing ring.
A 14-foot-tall, 13 -foot-long Pegasus (horse with wings) is the largest arid most difficult piece he's ever done. Made from fourteen 300-pound blocks of ice, it took a week to construct.
"We built it here, took it apart and reassembled it on site," he says, explaining that it was made like a jigsaw puzzle with cut-out slots that fitted together. Extreme care must be used when transporting and setting up the ice carvings.
"When things break, they shatter like glass," says the local ice carver who won 1st place for his entry in an early Baltimore on Ice Festival. He now sets up that Inner Harbor event and serves as a judge.'
Business As Usual
Despite adding artistry to its ice making, AAA Ice Co., Inc. still maintains its original purpose.
"We manufacture 40 tons a day and pretty much distribute. We have 10 delivery trucks and go everywhere all over Central Maryland," McPherson says.
The company services marinas, restaurants, catering companies, businesses, snow ball stands, and even concrete firms which use to keep their product at the level of degrees to conform to state law.
"When storms come through and knock out power, we are the company that handles all the dry ice distribution. People come here when they want to ship Maryland seafood/' says McPherson. His dry ice is also used by campers, blood banks and for medical shipments.
"We have tried to capture whatever market is out there. We are the only company in town that gives out cold storage boxes for repeat customers. We are trying to service everyone. I have 24-hour, 7-day service. We are open 365 days a year." he says, adding proudly, "We are the oldest family-owned and operated ice manufacturing business in the State of Maryland."
Show & Tell
McPherson enjoys sharing his ice carving artistry and does a lot of charitable type of things- He invites Scout groups and various organizations to tour his Belair Road plant.
"If time permits, I go out and show them," says the father of six who likes showing kids how the carving is done.
"My most touching moment was when I held up a little blind boy and let him feel a penguin. As his hands went over the ice, I just lost it," he admits. "What a reward...for that little boy to experience that. It was such a gratifying experience for me."
Sometimes when the weather hits the high 90 degrees mark and stays there for days on end, McPherson says, "you feel like you are behind the ball."
But, all in all, he really does
Have a cool job!