Like so many businesses, 'cool place' looking for employees

Posted 8/18/21

By JOHN HOWELL The hottest issue at the "coolest place in town" Monday morning was the need of additional employees at Warwick Ice Cream to meet a 300 percent increase in business. House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi got an earful on the problem from two

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Like so many businesses, 'cool place' looking for employees


The hottest issue at the “coolest place in town” Monday morning was the need of additional employees at Warwick Ice Cream to meet a 300 percent increase in business.

House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi got an earful on the problem from two of the four generations of Buccis who have run the family-owned business since 1930.

Shekarchi’s tour that included a gift of a pint of ice cream, although he won’t be eating it because he is diabetic, was arranged as part of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices “Road to Recovery” program.

Jane Moffatt of Goldman Sachs said advocacy is an element of the free 20-week program working with small businesses and Shekarchi’s visit was aimed at giving him a flavor of the issues faced by small businesses.

Fourth generation Thomas Bucci Jr. is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs program that is run twice annually across the country. More than 11,000 have completed the program aimed at giving small business owners skills in running their business from marketing to accounting since it was started nationally in 2016. In Rhode Island the program, run in concert with CCRI, has graduated 352, Moffatt said.

Bucci was highly complementary of the program.

He said, “the support of Goldman Sachs has given me the confidence to navigate through these times.”

His mother Celeste, who was imputing data into a computer said her son returned from sessions with ideas the family would discuss that helped them make positive changes in the business.

As it turned out, however, Thomas Bucci Sr., who was working the production line Monday, had suggestions for Shekarchi on how government might help business. He would put an end to benefits for those out of work.

“People are making $1,000 a week staying home,” he told Shekarchi.

He added that the company faces strict guidelines on the discharge of wastewater to the West Warwick and Warwick sewer systems, causing the company to do frequent multiple tests that are highly expensive.

“It’s not the state,” Shekarchi said of the federal unemployment grants that he speculated would come to an end in September. He touted the state’s work share program that allows people to work while collecting. As for the matter of sewer regulations, he said that is a municipal matter.

In order to cope with the dearth of employees – Warwick Ice Cream employs 30 – family members and veteran employees have been working non stop and filling in where needed.

“We have had to learn to do more with less,” said Thomas Bucci Jr.

“We’re barely keeping up (with orders). We’re good on sales,” he said.

Apart from seeking to fill jobs, he said the company has faced shortages of materials as well as problems with delivery. Bucci said to assure they have the materials for the non-interruption of production, Warwick Ice Cream has had to buy in bulk and warehouse.

He told Shekarchi and Moffatt that the company produces 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of ice cream daily. Wearing hairnets, Bucci guided the group between a production line where a staff of mostly young people who will be returning to school packaged one-gallon containers of grape nut flavored ice cream. From there the tour got to see giant stainless steel vats where the ice cream is mixed and then the walk-in freezer resembling a warehouse. Bucci said a key to making good ice cream is “blast freezing.”

As the group worked their way back to the entrance of the plant on Route 2, TV news crews snagged Shekarchi and Bucci for comments. The Speaker lauded the partnership with Goldman Sachs.

Yet, one question lingered. Would the tour include a sample tasting, as Moffatt suggested might be the case to her 3-year old son Louis Newman?

Bucci disappeared for a moment upstairs. Louis kept a watchful eye. When he returned Louis had a selection of pints to pick from. With a pint of vanilla and a spoon, he didn’t wait to dig in.


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    Warwick Ice Cream puts out, in my opinion, one of the top 3 ice creams in the state. First rate, and not least because it is a truly local business. It would be a shame if the business, under pressure from the "shortage of workers" we hear so much about in the press these days, were to decide it could no longer continue. We would lose one more local treasure and a slew of potentially rewarding jobs. The owners think that the solution is to deprive unemployed people of unemployment benefits--in other words, to starve them back to work. They seem to forget the iron laws of supply and demand that operate in every other aspect of their business: If a commodity is scarce, its price goes up. If there is a milk shortage, then Warwick Ice Cream has to pay more for the milk it needs to produce its product. But for some reason the owners think that they are entitled to labor at a fixed price, regardless of whether the supply dries up. Why? Why would they not have to pay more for labor when labor gets scarce, just like any other input to their business? It has been pointed out by many that we are not experiencing a labor shortage in this country, but rather a "wage shortage." As has been true since wage labor was invented, given a viable alternative, people do not want to take "jobs" working for businesses they did not own and idd not profit from. Here's a suggested solution to the "labor shortage": offer employees an ownership stake in the business-- precisely what motivates the present owners to keep the business going. Distribute business profits to all those who make the business a business by working there--instead of only to the family. In other words, instead of trying to force people to take a job by cutting off their lifeline, offer a lifeline of your own.

    Friday, August 20 Report this