Job creating frozen displays for an upscale restaurant inspires ice-carving business
In the midst of the Florida heat, Joe Rimer spends most of his days in freezing cold temperatures chipping away at blocks of ice, creating frozen works of art.
“The temperatures I’m working in usually range from 13 to 17 degrees (Fahrenheit),” the Bradenton-native explains.
In his walk-in freezer, Joe sculpts food and drink displays, figures, statues and massive pieces for corporate and special events. Joe has created sculptures as tiny as miniature ice slippers for the sorbet course at Disney to something as big as a major set up for the last Super Bowl that was staged in New Orleans for the Beyoncé after-party.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Joe took a job as an executive chef in Memphis. That is where he began creating ice displays for special events. He soon discovered it was a challenge getting the blocks of ice needed for sculpting, so he and his wife, Lianne, started a side business.
“We actually started off as an ice block producing company, but I started carving a lot of ice sculptures and it took off,” Joe says, noting he went from being executive chef of the Memphis Country Club to doing ice work full time.
The Rimers left the ice business behind when they moved to Orlando to take full-time jobs—Joe once again working in the restaurant business. But when the 2008 recession came along, both were suddenly unemployed. The idea of ice carving came back around.
“We knew we had the skills,” Lianne says. “We had previous experience with business ownership, so we moved back to where Joe’s originally from and started the ice-carving business here with his father.
“They have about 75 acres in Parrish on a farm. It was a perfect situation to pull all of our skills and resources together.”
They formed Ice Pro, with Joe handling the ice carving and Lianne—who has a financial and computer background—handling sales. She began teaching herself to design sculptures on the computer.
Their small business took off, morphing into a major operation that now includes offices and staff in Orlando and Parrish, high-tech equipment and freezer trucks for transportation.
Their sculptures have been displayed at events throughout Florida and all across the country. They have created ice bars—basically, ice-drinking establishments—in a number of venues.
“You’re going inside of a building that’s in a freezer that’s all made of ice,” Joe says, describing an ice bar. “All the walls, all of the furniture, the bar, everything is in ice. They’re big projects.”
His original installation used 650 300-pound blocks of ice.
Technology has come a long way, and machines now do a lot of the carving—especially for bigger projects. However, the intricate, detailed work is still done by the artist.
“It’s almost all hand-carving,” Joe says. “When you’re carving ice, you’re getting prismatic effect from light because of what you’re cutting into the ice. The fact that it’s melting and becomes the vision of crystal, you don’t get that in any other medium.”
The effect is so stunning most people think they’re looking at glass until they touch it.
Joe holds an International First Place in Competition and also set a Guinness World Record for the longest ice bar at 207 feet. In the middle of the bar was a 23-foot-tall working ice luge called Rapunzel. Rapunzel generated so much publicity Joe was invited to Boston to create an even bigger one for Johnny Appleseed Hard Cider.
“We did a 25-foot version of the Johnny Appleseed bottle complete with nine taps for Johnny Appleseed to flow from the massive sculpture itself.
Ashley Miller, a managing partner with Avenue Event Group—which handles 11 venues in Orlando and others elsewhere—has worked with Ice Pro many times.
“We do mostly corporate events and get all kinds of requests from people doing product launches who want to freeze something in ice,” she says. “We had one that required Joe to make a treasure chest with a frozen credit card inside. It was an odd request, but he was able to pull it off.”
When the client asked for a key that could open it, she explained that ice melts and it doesn’t work that way. But Joe was able to make it happen.
“Anything from just a logo to a beer tap wall to something like a treasure chest with a key that opens it, Joe’s been able to do it,” Ashley says.
Ice sculpting is a team effort, Joe says. He enjoys the camaraderie with fellow ice carvers who often come together for competitions and major projects.
For example, he did the New Orleans Super Bowl with Dawson List of Ice Dragon Ice Sculptures.
Joe says he is grateful for the projects and competitions that have allowed him to travel throughout the U.S. and to places as far away as China.
Even though he has been sculpting for many years, he still looks forward to new challenges.
“Every year we seem to get something that’s big and out of the norm,” Joe says. “Those are the ones that excite me.”
To learn more, visit iceprofl.com or call (941) 776-8166.