SweetWater Ices owners and makers of Italian ice Michael Beggen (left) and Richard Conroy (right)

Owners Michael Beggen (L) and Richard Conroy (R) of SweetWater Ices

It started with a craving.

A craving that would later turn into a business.

Today, SweetWater Ices is proud to provide New York Italian Ice to North Carolinians.

A Visit

In 2011, Michael Beggen and Richard Conroy came to North Carolina from New York to visit some friends—one of which was pregnant. Craving Sorbet Italian Ice, she enlisted Michael and Richard’s help to find some of the fruity, icy dessert.

“With our New York state of minds, we thought it would be a piece of cake considering Italian ice is easy to find back home,” Richard says. “We were wrong.”

Despite their best endeavors, they were at a loss.

“Three hours later we ended up getting her fake, frozen Italian Ice from a local grocery store,” Richard says. “So we jokingly said we should start our own REAL Italian Ice [company] here in North Carolina.”

Not possible… or is it?

Enjoying the idea of starting a company, the group of friends gathered at a bar that evening to discuss the details of their imaginary Italian Ice business, and what roles they would all have.

“We wanted to do it the right way with REAL Italian Ice; no corn syrup, just real fruit, water, and sugar,” Richard says. “If we were going to do this, we needed to do it with style.” 

As is generally the case, the group soon parted ways with fond memories of their Italian Ice adventure and the conversations that followed. They each went back to work, to their everyday lives, and Michael and Richard went back to New York.

A few months later, a pivotal opportunity presented itself.

Michael was laid off from his job as a history teacher.

Seeing potential in the face of this news, he reached out to Richard to see if he was interested in starting an Italian Ice company after all. He agreed, and before long they began turning their idea into a reality. As a graphic designer, Michael began designing the look and logo of SweetWater.

An Idea Takes Shape

From the very beginning both knew that they wanted to go with a 1950’s theme. Now that they had a theme, they were all set to build their business.

“We knew that we were going to go with a retro 1950’s theme so we decided on old school ice cream carts,” Richard says. “Worksman Cycles in Queens, [New York] has been in business since 1898 and mass produced carts for the Good Humor Co. in the 1920’s. We special ordered our carts and customized the look to our design.”

SweetWater Ices is a vintage experience through and through. It also strongly reflects New York.

“We’re from New York, the carts are made in New York, and the sorbet Italian Ice is made in New York too,” Richard says. “The ice is made by an Italian family in Queens, New York with real fruit, water, and cane sugar.”

Wedding Fun

While SweetWater Ices can be spotted around The Triangle, they offer both wedding services and a variety of refreshing flavors to select from.

“We offer Unlimited Servings of your choice of four Italian Ice Sorbet flavors and we have over twenty flavors to choose from,” Richard says. “For outdoor weddings, a great option is to serve guests “Pre-Ceremony” to keep them cool and start the day’s celebration out right.”

SweetWater Ices delights guests with vintage tricycles, 1950’s music, and servers that are dressed in period attire. It is truly an authentic experience.

“We love the reactions from couples and guests!” Richard says.  “They love our look and our sorbet.  The best part of the SweetWater Ices experience is the bonus photo shoot that we offer while we are serving.  Couples love to take memorable pictures with our carts and truck.”

Fun Facts

  • SweetWater Ices now also serves Italian Ice out of a 1950’s milk truck
  • Champagne floats are also on the SweetWater menu
  • Richard’s favorite flavor is Lemon, while Michael’s favorite flavor is Peanut Butter
  • Anyone can sample one flavor at a Forever Bridal show