Charles Hartz originally wanted to be an ice sculptor.
In 2012, the former executive chef quit his job and converted his garage into a studio.
"I started getting worried about being able to pay my bills," Hartz says, "so I started passing fliers around Portland to try to sell my sculptures."
His artistic offerings got few bites. But then, the general manager of Imperial gave him a call, asking to buy a block of the sculpture ice to use in the restaurant's cocktails. Soon after, he was contacted by the Whiskey Library with a request for pre-cut cubes. He immediately got his garage health code certified and began cutting the cubes by hand. By 2015, requests became so numerous he had to rent the industrial space he's in now and hire four other employees.
Now, PDX Ice (pdxice.com) sends out over 1,000 ice cubes a day from Hartz's small warehouse on the edge of Beaverton to 72-plus bars and restaurants.
The ice Hartz uses for carvings—a 300-pound slab, frozen by a special machine over the course of three days—is purer and more dense than average ice, meaning it's crystal clear and doesn't melt and dilute the drink as quickly.
It's not just the density and clarity of the ice that woos bartenders, though. Hartz and his crew also carve the slabs into unique shapes—long rectangles, spheres and large cubes—and sometimes embellish them with logos.
He says the company is also still hired sometimes to make sculptures—like a two-story drink luge or a life-sized saber-toothed tiger, which Wieden + Kennedy commissioned for an event.
"That one was fun," he says. "When we came to break it down at the end of the night, people were riding it."
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