LOXLEY, Alabama — Lex Joines, owner of Big Blue Ice, turned a simple need for ice into a business opportunity.
“This whole thing got started because our ice maker quit on our refrigerator at home,” said the Fairhope resident, who started the business in May with his wife Lisa. “So I went out looking for ice.”
Looking around his neighborhood, he found a big, blue icebox looking machine owned by the Kooler Ice company.
“I started looking at it and realized this was a product I could get behind and would be a good business opportunity for me,” he said. “It’s not frozen bags of ice that sit in a cooler all day and you have to bang it on the sidewalk to break it up. It’s fresh, it’s clean and bagged right there on the spot when you press the button.”
Joines said he scouted several locations, but kept coming back to Loxley, specifically a location on Alabama 59 located next to the Loxley Farm Market.
“I chose Loxley because of the family atmosphere,” he said. “Also because of the location here. It’s a high-traffic area and there’s a straight drive through, so if you are pulling a trailer or a boat, you don’t have to turn your vehicle around, you can just drive straight through.”
Joines rents the property from the Loxley Farm Market, he said.
“They’ve been so nice in helping us get set up and allowing us to provide everything that was needed for setup,” Joines said. In order to set up the cooler, he had to provide a concrete base, water and electricity. Kooler Ice then did the rest.
The business opened in May and Joines said he has seen a steady increase since opening.
“I have to tell you, May wasn’t good, mainly because it took a while for people to realize that we’re here,” he said.
A lot of people don’t know how to use or are intimidated by the machine, he said, but the process is really simple.
“It’s basically a big (drink) machine that serves ice,” he said.
The machine takes bills, coins, or debit/credit cards. A standard 16-pound bag of ice costs $2, or you can get two bags for $4. You simply chose your method of payment, select if you want one or two bags, and the machine does the rest. Zip ties are attached to the machine to secure the bag once the process is completed.
Joines said Kooler Ice and Alabama Department of Public Health regulations require that the machine, which can hold up to 800 points of ice, be cleaned out and sanitized every six months.
The machine is also very secure, he said.
“If anybody other than me tries to open the machine, I have an app on my phone that alerts me and I can immediately call law enforcement for assistance,” he said. He added that if there are problems with the machine, there is a number to call and he can operate the machine remotely through the app.
“I just want to encourage everyone to let people know that we’re here and open for business 24/7,” he said.
If you would like more information, you can go to koolerice.com.