A Cool Concoction
Former Colts Guard Opens Indiana’s First Rita’s Italian Ice
Writer / Matt Keating
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
“We spend a lot of time coming up with flavors that have a wide appeal to a lot of different people,” Thomas says. “So far, we gave been a big hit with kids and adults. One of the things I love about owning a business like this is that everyone comes in here happy and already in a good mood. They come in to celebrate their kids winning a game. They stop in for a treat after work to sit outside, or come in after dinner or a movie. They make a special trip because we are a fun destination.”
Rita’s Italian Ice is the world’s largest Italian Ice concept with more than 600 stores in the U.S. It was rated No. 1 in Restaurant News’ “Consumer Picks 2014” for service and value in the frozen treat category.
When you walk in the door at Rita’s Italian Ice in the Lantern Crossing Shopping Plaza in Fishers, there are signs telling customers they can “order happiness” and “pick up” happiness. There is also a wall for the kids to write and draw on.
“We opened last March and have had a very steady flow of regular customers,” Thomas says. “We had people lined up outside the door when we opened, and we were packed. They were thrilled we opened.”
Rita’s closed last November for the winter, but reopened March 3 to eager customers waiting to get their frozen treats.
“I think people have enjoyed the wide variety of flavors we offer,” Thomas says. “We change flavors every week. We use water, sugar, syrup and real fruit pieces in the ice. It’s the real deal.”
Rita’s Italian Ice has more than 90 different flavors.
“We make 12 different flavors each day and rotate them continuously,” Thomas says. “We also make sure to keep a steady supply of our most popular flavors such as mango and cherry. Cotton Candy is the number one choice among kids, and mango has been the most popular with adults. Our margarita ice is also very popular.”
Other big hits include Sour Patch Kids, Birch Beer, Strawberry Cheesecake, Tropical Punch, Jolly Ranchers and Birthday Cake.
“We have non-dairy options, as well as all-natural flavors and non-sugar treats,” Thomas adds.
There are also plenty of choices of gelatins, custards, milkshakes and blendinis to choose from.
Thomas first discovered Rita’s Italian Ice when he was a kid in Connecticut.
“It was one of my favorite places to go to in the summer time,” Thomas says. “It stayed with me through the years, and when I went home to see family in the summer, I always wanted to go there. It was a fun weekend thing.”
“This is the first Rita’s franchise in Indiana, but I would love to open one in the Carmel and Westfield area, the Avon area and on the southeast side,” Thomas says. “I believe it’s a very strong brand and will eventually become more of a household name.”
Thomas did a lot of franchise research before opening his Rita’s in Fishers. When he was finished with his NFL career, which started with the Miami Dolphins from 2008 to 2010, followed by playing for the Detroit Lions in 2010, the New England Patriots from 2011 to 2013 and the Indianapolis Colts from 2013 to 15, he was ready for a new challenge.
“I knew this was a franchise I wanted to get involved in,” Thomas says. “I know the Rita’s brand has been battle-tested. It’s been very popular with both kids and adults. People want to indulge in a treat. I love watching people enjoying their selections.”
Thomas has been busy getting out and promoting the Rita’s brand at parties, catering events, social gatherings and also through a mobile cart and a lot of leg work.
“I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know all of the great people who come in here and out in the community,” he says. “I’ve had nothing but positive people telling me how much they love the products and how it gives them a good feeling. I’ve enjoyed making them happy.”
Stop by Rita’s at 8910 E. 96th Street this summer for a frozen treat.