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    Saturday, December 03, 2022

    Small Business Success: Ice Imports stays hot during COVID

    Store owner Eric Meyer, left, with Taylor Diamond, who manages both the Ice Import stores in Waterford and Mystic. Another is on its way in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    A local entrepreneur whose retail business benefited from the COVID economic contraction is expanding from Coastal Connecticut to the Caribbean.

    Eric Meyer’s business, which he founded 20 years ago, consists of two retail stores with highly unusual, eclectic inventories, one in the Crystal Mall in Waterford, and the other in Olde Mistick Village in Mystic. A third location is in final planning for the U.S. Virgin Islands. This success stems not only from Meyer’s entrepreneurial drive, but also – odd as it may sound – from the pandemic that has wreaked so much havoc on so many businesses.

    In the months leading to the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, Meyer’s business, although long established with a loyal clientele, was having difficulty generating positive cash flow sufficient to maintain inventory. Then outside events intervened and helped him, with a lot of work and strong family support, get his business back on track. Today, it is thriving.

    The first of these events was to connect with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), through one of their free workshops. SCORE is a nationwide, nonprofit association and resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration that offers free, confidential advice to small-business owners. His SCORE mentors helped him put in place the financial controls and reporting systems that strengthened his grasp on his business’s finances.

    The second source was low-interest, long term, federal loans he received to help weather COVID-19. The pandemic also led the state to enforce a two-month shutdown, which provided the breathing space he needed to regroup and use the government loans to build inventory. As a result, he was prepared to welcome customers back after the shutdown with the inventory to capitalize on pent-up demand.

    Meyer’s business is now roaring and he has identified retail space in Charlotte Amalie, capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, for his third store.

    “I could throw a baseball from the shop’s front door into the ocean,” Meyer says. “We’ll be located right where the tourists stream in. It’s a retailer’s dream.

    “My talent is recognizing products that are ‘cool,’” Meyer says, “products that people will buy and come back for more.”

    His product offering in his two existing stores includes gemstones and gemstone jewelry; swords, daggers, and armor; incense and incense burners, statues and decor, and metaphysical items. (https://iceimports.com/)

    Meyer credits many people in addition to his SCORE mentors, prominently including his store manager, Taylor Diamond. She has been an important part of his success for 13 years, managing both stores. His family, especially his wife, has been a vital source of support.

    “If I was going to describe myself in one word, it would be ‘grateful’,” Meyer says. “Grateful for the opportunities I have had and the people who have helped me take advantage of them.”

    Hugh M. Ryan is a certified mentor for the Southeastern Connecticut chapter of SCORE. He can be reached at hugh.ryan@scorevolunteer.org.

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