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News Maryland Baltimore County Dundalk

Italian ice meets road ice as Rita's stores open amid storm

While most Marylanders will be shoveling snow and cursing freezing rain Monday, a seasonal chain will be doing operating at the opposite end of the spectrum. They'll be selling ice.

Owners of about half of Maryland's Rita's Italian Ice locations are facing a tough decision, just two days after opening for the 2014 season.

Michele Hoover, owner of the Dundalk location, opened Saturday.

"Not the best timing," she said with a laugh. "The weather is not cooperating so far."

But one aspect of being a Rita's owner makes a snow day less than a laughing matter.

Apparently ice has an expiration date. There's a 36-hour freshness window on Italian ice. So with Monday's impending snow, any stock left from Saturday's grand opening will be shoveled to the trash.

"If we have a lot left over [Sunday night], I can't use it on Tuesday," Hoover said.

With that in mind, Hoover said she'll offer a buy-one, get-one free deal on gelati—with a caveat.

"If we can get here, we'll be here," she said.

Hoover's location is one of 75 in Maryland, according to ritasice.com. Of those, 32 of them had hours posted as of Sunday. Others, including Hoover's location in Hunt Valley, are slated to open on Saturday. Generally, the season openings are accompanied with deals and discounts. To kick off the spring season nationwide, March 20 is "free ice day" at all Rita's chains.

Many locations were eyeing Monday as a potential snow day.

Eldersburg location owner Richard Neith, who has been in the business for 10 years, said he may be closing Monday if Sunday's projections played out.

"I try to open whenever I can," he said. If he does open, he may be flying solo behind the counter.

His location opened Saturday.

"It's not the best weekend I've been open for, but I picked the date I was going to open two months ago, figuring average temperature is 49 this time of year," he said. "We haven't touched that this weekend."

sjwelsh@baltsun.com

twitter.com/seanjwelsh

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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