A Gleaming Manufacturing Facility on a Formerly Blighted Property
“You are going to need an air compressor,” David Bornemeier’s engineer told him after the startup deadline had already passed for manufacturing their new Mountain Brand bagged ice. Bornemeier thought he would run to the home improvement store and pick one up, but his designer laughed, like “that’s cute” It was a $50,000 design oversight and one of many expensive hurdles they faced a year ago. In a preliminary interview that David and Becky Bornemeier granted last year, they clasped each other’s hands and got a little emotional when confiding that they were “all-in.” This expansion was a make-or-break gamble for their family which also owns the successful Western Gateway Storage.
Over the next twelve months, they faced a communication mix-up with Ogden City which almost resulted in shut-down, correcting a faulty installation and other glitches that always seem to occur in a manufacturing startup. David said, “If you’re an entrepreneur, may God help you, because you know how literal the phrase, ‘blood, sweat and tears,’ is.”
On Monday, November 20, 2017 they delivered their first bags of ice to local retail outlets, re-introducing a 100-year-old Ogden label, “Mountain Brand.” Bornemeier wanted to do a delivery ride-along to the first convenience store, saying he wanted to hug that initial buyer. After so many delays and costs, he said, “I let out a cathartic yell when I saw the first full pallet of ice.”
Beautiful Facility Reclaims a Withering Part of Town
Their gleaming manufacturing facility sits atop a formerly blighted parcel of Ogden city, behind the Rescue Mission and just north of American Nutrition on Wall Avenue. Inside is a state-of-the-art facility in every way, built to “harvest” thousands of pounds of ice tubes every 6 minutes. They can warehouse millions of pounds of ice at a time which means thousands of pallets can be ready for the hotter months. The temperature hovers around zero where pallet racks climb 7-high and the air is so dry a person exhales invisible breath, no steamy puffs of air because the moisture dissipates immediately.
Bornemeier animatedly explained the engineering behind each step of manufacturing while the giant refrigeration compressor whirred on demand in the background. Part of his passion stems from a philosophical commitment to entrepreneurship and Northern Utah’s economy built up by “makers, not takers.”
Ready for Summer Barbecues – A Seasonal Business
Bornemeier clarifies that they don’t anticipate filling the freezer warehouse storage because the idea is to run the facility all night and empty ice into trucks each morning. Still, they must be ready to satisfy spikes of demand for cold sodas and summer BBQs across Utah, Eastern Nevada, Southern Idaho and even Colorado. It is a highly seasonal business, so their workforce shrinks to about 12 employees in the winter and grows by many more during the 100 days of summer.
Revival of a Venerable Brand
David and Becky Bornemeier are proud to launch this particular brand. They kicked around names and came up with some clever ideas, but one day David was looking at a wooden block with antique printing dies mounted on it. It was an Ogden artifact they received when they bought Western Gateway Storage, a turn-of-the-century business that was originally affiliated with American Packing and Provision Company down in the old stockyards. One of the printing dies on that block was for Mountain Brand, a well-respected consumer label from a hundred years ago. The Bornemeiers originally fell in love with the history of their business and now thought it would be neat to create a new product using a venerable old brand. The result is a classic label that looks modern and distinct.
“Most people may just see frozen water…”
The product itself is world class. The water that becomes Mountain Brand Ice tastes delightfully clean, first going through a carbon filtration process, then a reverse osmosis phase and finally a UV light treatment. There will be no floaty residue. Bornemeier points out another drawback of older facilities, “Have you ever slammed a bag of ice on the sidewalk to break it apart?” David asks. “That’s because it goes in the bag wet and freezes together. We dry our ice first. This is a proprietary process to make a better product.”
They are also proud of very little waste in the process. Any broken tubes are re-routed, slightly melted and compressed into blocks. Their facility uses the most environmentally friendly ammonia chilling systems, and through their other business, Western Gateway Storage, they have mastered the art of removing heat from a room using advanced refrigeration systems to drop the temperature.
As our tour concluded, Bornemeier admitted, “Look, most people may just see frozen water. I can understand that, but we see so much more! Most people don’t realize the dirty conditions current ice in the market is being made in. Our facility is world class and we’re proud of the product we make. We are going into a market that has been dominated by a local monopoly for a long time. We will thrive by offering the best product and taking great care of our customers and our employees. We believe the market is ripe for competition.”