Free treats: Rita’s rewards early customers

Published 9:52 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The first five customers in line at the new Rita’s Italian Ice store on Tuesday were, from right, Cathie Bresnahan, Dick Stewart, Georgia Earley, Brianna Bohnert and Shonta Jones.

Cathie Bresnahan and Dick Stewart, both retired, arrived four hours ahead of time for the grand opening celebration at the new Rita’s Italian Ice location in the Suffolk Plaza Shopping Center on Tuesday.

They brought along lawn chairs and umbrellas, both of which came in handy as they waited in line under occasionally rainy skies to be two of the 100 people who received a year’s worth of frozen treats for being the first customers through the store after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

In fact, Bresnahan and Stewart were the first two in line, earning them special badges to commemorate the day, along with coupons for 52 free frozen desserts.

Employees of the shop, including Lavonda Brickhouse, were ready and eager to serve customers during Tuesday's grand opening.


Email newsletter signup

“We’re retired, so we didn’t have anything else to do today,” Stewart joked, noting that they had decided to make an outing of the event when they’d seen it advertised in the newspaper.

Directly behind them in line were 13-year-old Georgia Early and her slightly less enthusiastic 25-year-old cousin, Brianna Bohnert, who had made T-shirts to commemorate their time waiting for a favorite treat.

“We decided it would be fun,” Georgia said. When they heard about the grand-opening event, she added, “We got really excited, so we made T-shirts.”

The ladies weren’t intent on being first in line, just among the first 100, so they arrived at about 8:40 a.m. and queued behind Bresnahan and Stewart.

For Kathlene and Kelly Holschuh, the owners of the new Rita’s franchise here in Suffolk and another in the Chesapeake Square area, this type of grand opening was a new experience, as the company has recently begun to host such gala events, Kathlene said.

She and her husband both retired from the U.S. Navy after 20 years of service and settled on the Rita’s franchises after searching online for opportunities in the area.

“I wanted to find something to do with myself,” she said. Rita’s, as it turned out, is a “very, very friendly franchise,” a characteristic that suits her gregarious husband especially well, she added.

The couple has found the company’s friendly attitude also plays well in Suffolk, where, she said, “Everybody’s down-home friendly. Everybody wants to talk to you.”

With its motto, “Ice, Custard, Happiness,” Rita’s traditional Italian Ice is made with real fruit available in more than 60 flavors. Rita’s Ice is made fresh on-site daily at each store. Custards are also available, and the two treats can be mixed for a larger variety of possibilities.

The company has 10 employees at the 1,545-square-foot Suffolk store, which will operate on a seasonal schedule, with hours from mid-February through October.