HAMMOND | A small Italian ice shop that's often packed in the summer has big expansion plans.
Jodi's Italian Ice Factory first opened on Calumet Avenue in Hammond a year ago. The store's authentic Philadelphia-style "water ice" or "Italian lemonade" has proven so popular that it now plans to open 10 more locations across Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area within the next year.
Owners Brian and Jodi Tillman, who live in Munster, expect to create between 50 to 100 jobs when they open up shops all across The Calumet Region.
Jodi's Italian Ice will soon open a second store at 1718 Calumet Ave. in Hammond's Robertsdale neighborhood on the border of Whiting, and at 1114 U.S. 30 in Schererville, in a strip mall next to the Cat's Tale bookstore. The business also will open a stand at the U.S. Steel Yard when the Gary SouthShore Railcats begin their season, and will launch a food truck that's expected to be a constant presence at the region's many summer festivals, including Pierogi Fest.
The original Jodi's Italian Ice Factory at 7322 Calumet Ave. offers Italian ice, a sweet sorbet-like frozen desert made with fruit, as well blends of ice and gelato. Flavors vary depending on what's fresh, and can include candy banana, cantaloupe, cherry, lemon, mango, pina colada and strawberry.
"To be honest, the reason, we're expanding is we can't meet the demand," Brian Tillman said. "During many of the peak hours, it's hard to get into the store. We think we can accommodate more people with more locations."
The sweet treat is popular on the East Coast and was a staple of Brian Tillman's childhood in Philadelphia. Jodi's Italian Ice is the only local place that offers it Philly-style, which is known for being smooth and soft. Customers who grew up in the area come from as far as Chicago's North Side to the Hammond location.
"In the summer, in warm weather, you had a water ice in your hand," he said.
The current store is about 750 square feet, and Jodi's Italian Ice hopes to open similarly sized locations where customers can walk up. The equipment needed costs around $24,000. Each location will employ about five to 10 people.
The Whiting and Schererville locations are expected to open later this month.
For information, visit http://www.jodisitalianice.com/ or find the business on Facebook or Twitter.