Rita’s Italian Ice Persists in Times of Difficulty

Carrie Kessler and Dustin David of Rita's Italian Ice for Catering. Photo courtesy of Rita's Italian Ice.

Steven Bonifazi

Owners of local ice-cream shop Rita’s Italian Ice Carrie Kesler and Dustin David are staying positive and looking to move forward as the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll.

Rita’s Italian Ice first started along the east coast in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1984. Dustin first head of Rita’s from his sister who attended Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania and went on to open a Rita’s in Fort Collins in September of 2018.

“I was there when they opened, but Dustin started the whole process,” said Carrie. “I took myself and worked there and became a manager and now I do a lot of the organizational work, I am good at running operations in the store,” said Carrie.

Carrie was born in Denver and relocated to areas such as Wyoming, Iowa and Missouri where she lived for fifteen years until relocating back to Colorado. She got to know Dustin nearly three and a half years ago and began putting her full force and effort into Rita’s and their future once she realized that she had met the love of her life.

Now engaged, Carrie and Dustin work on their strengths to keep Rita’s afloat through creativity as the pandemic has cut their sales nearly in half. The duo was headed towards going into the black, meaning they were producing positive earnings before the pandemic with spring and summer being their golden seasons.

Carrie and Dustin have been forced to be creative and pivot by catering, selling what they have to stay afloat and partnering with delivery services such as GrubHub, Door Dash and Uber Eats to offer their patrons takeout and curbside services. Due to the small size of Rita’s located at 250 E Harmony Rd Ste F-7, patrons have not been able to dine in-doors as Carrie and Dustin feel that people will not feel comfortable eating so close to each other.

Nevertheless Rita’s has a big patio that is open during all seasons and can be rented out for free. Carrie and Dustin have also made additional efforts to stay afloat including catering, a partnership with non-profit organization A Little Help, raising funds for Riffenburgh Elementary School in Fort Collins and hosting weekly events on Saturdays to get traffic in their doors.

“We host events on almost every Saturday with people wearing masks and socially distancing,” said Carrie.

Upcoming events for Rita’s Italian Ice. Photo courtesy of Rita’s Italian Ice.

Carrie works as a director at the dance studio The Studio in Fort Collins and Loveland while she is not managing the ins and outs of Rita’s. She prides herself in serving people being very good with handling allergies as the majority of their Italian ice is dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan additionally offering gluten-free custards.

Carrie has a girl that she teaches dance that is allergic to many things except for Carrie’s Italian ice. Carrie finds joy in providing treats to people with allergies as well as serving all, stating that serving Italian ice is much better than being a waitress as there is no limit to what amount of sugar is not going to make someone happy.

Carrie and Dustin are remaining positive looking to the future and working hard to flourish.

“We are working on rebranding the store right now and we have changed the staff uniforms to look more professional while trying our best to always have ice for people and make sure we have a happy personnel as we hope to keep bringing smiles and having a full store when corona is gone,” said Carrie. “We are staying positive among all the negatives,” Carrie said.

For more information regarding Rita’s Italian Ice, visit: https://ritaoffortcollins.com or call 970-400-7063 or to see their social media pages, visit: https://www.facebook.com/RitasofFortCollins and https://www.instagram.com/ritasoffortcollins/

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