by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Travis Long
“This is how we’ve always had our Italian ice growing up: super smooth, not frozen or hard as a rock. Just real fruit, water, and sugar.” – Mike Beggen, co-founder, SweetWater New York Ice Co.
It began as a joke. When Mike Beggen and his friend, Rich Conroy, were visiting friends in Raleigh, one of them was pregnant and “sent us out to feed her craving,” Beggen says. “After three hours of driving we couldn’t find any real Italian ice.” They settled on a fake supermarket substitute and returned home to Farmingdale, N.Y., hypothetically scheming to begin their own Southern ice company. Not long after, Beggen lost his high school teaching job and the two decided to take the unlikely leap of moving south to open SweetWater New York Ice Co. Today they sell Italian ice from a bike cart across the Triangle and plan to someday open a store. What to order? “Lemon, cherry, and rainbow are always top picks,” Beggen says. “Our peanut butter, though, is unbelievable.”