MANKATO — As summer jobs go, Jeremy Friedrichs Jr. has the coolest gig in town — cold even.
When he’s done stacking a pallet in the 40-degree room, he moves the load into the much-colder freezer.
The temperature may be 90 and rising outside, but in an ice plant it’s always winter.
Arctic Ice of Mankato can make 60 tons of ice every 24 hours, meaning one day’s output alone can require 16,000 gallons of water, making that monthly utility bill...
“Pretty big,” said Chad Friedrichs who, with brother Jeremy Friedrichs Sr., has operated the business since 1985.
Back then the commercial ice-making process required workers to toil in 20-degree rooms.
Factor in the wind chill created by several air-circulating fans and you’d have the surreal situation of workers going home on beastly hot days complaining of frozen toes.
Changes in packaging technology now enable ice to be bagged in 40-50-degree rooms, with workers typically jacketless and in shorts.
In Jeremy Jr.’s case, a day in the ice house does his body good. The recent Mankato East High grad is in the Lancers marching band, whose members are no strangers to wilting summer heat.
“After practicing all afternoon I get to come in here and recuperate,” he said.
But the cold cuts both ways, especially for the company’s route drivers who load in cold trucks then venture into the heat to unload, all day long.
“It takes a toll on you,” Chad Friedrichs said.
“Our drivers are tired at the end of the day. But people will say, ‘Oh, you have a cool job’ even as sweat is dripping down their faces.”
Arctic Ice serves accounts in a 100-miles radius. The business employs 20 in its peak season of summer, with the apex being the Fourth of July holiday.
Chad Friedrichs said ice sales were helped years ago when bottled water became popular because people wanted their ice to be as pure as the water they were buying in stores.
That’s why the icemakers take city tap water and run it through a series of processes — filtration, softening, reverse osmosis, bacteria-killing ultra-violet light — before it’s readied for market.
That said, there are no high-tech speedy shortcuts to making ice. It still must be done the old-fashioned way by employing the simple physics of refrigeration.
But that beats the really old-fashioned alternative, Chad Friedrichs said.
“This way is a lot better than digging it out of the river in winter like they used to have to do.”