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Heat Wave Means Big Business For Family Ice Plant

A recent heat wave means business is good for a family-operated ice-making plant on South Zarzamora Street, south of Downtown.

Jesse Mireles, the company’s co-owner and vice president, said the company got its start under his father, Jesus, as Mireles Party Kegs in 1974.

Those kegs were often sold with ice, he said.

In 2001, they decided to make their own ice on a large scale and Mireles Party Ice was born, he said.

Jesse Mireles adjust master control at Mireles Party Ice
Credit Brian Kirkpatrick / Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio
Mireles Party Ice co-owner Jesse Mireles looks over the master control panel that operates production at the family's ice plant on South Zarzamora, near downtown.

Mireles said his parents and two sisters were the basis of the company at the start. Then, his dad made him vice president of the company when he was still in high school.

He said the company now has around 50 employees and produces enough ice each day to fill the back of six 18-wheelers.

“We started out making 10 tons of ice a day,” he said. “You know we were really excited.  We had a real ice plant. You know, now we make 120 tons a day, so you know we’ve expanded quite a bit since those early days back in 2001.”

The ice is formed as it freezes in a giant, floor-to-ceiling ice maker with one-inch vertical tubes housed inside, he said.

A hot gas is applied to the tubes, which allows the ice to loosen and slide down into a cutter, resulting in the one inch cubes we need to survive this time of year, Mireles said.

A conveyor then sends the ices cubes to a bin that feeds a bagging machine. There, the ice is manually bagged and loaded onto pallets for shipment, he said.

Mireles said July is the peak month for the ice-making industry. He said ice companies in different parts of the state help each other if shortages appear due to demand.

He said ice companies in other cities have asked his plant to help the keep up with demand in recent days.

“We’re trucking some wholesale ice up to Dallas, going over there to Carlsbad, New Mexico,” Mireles said. “We’re sending some down to Corpus Christi as well.”

He said the company sent out another kind of help last August. Company ice trucks went to Rockport after Hurricane Harvey hit.

“These people were literally just walking around in the streets; no power; no help. We were just driving around trying to deliver people a little bit of refreshment and relief,” Mireles said.

With temperatures expected in the hundreds this week, you might think all the jobs at Mireles Ice Party are literally cool. He said those inside the ice making place are, but some are not so cool.

“Everybody sees our ice guys and they say, ‘Oh man, that’s a cool job and they’re outside loading 10 pound bags of ice into a cooler,’ ” he said

To make ends meet when the summer heat ends and ice demand falls, the company offers snow parties, Mireles said. Mireles Party Ice employees feed bags of ice into a snow blower to create a holiday scene at homes and businesses, he said.

So while ice does not run in the veins of the Mireles family, it definitely runs in their blood.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at tpr.org