As customers walk into the Rita’s Italian Ice shop located in Parker, their noses are met with the sweet smell of endless possibilities as they are greeted by two friendly employees. As they make their way into the store, they are presented with three massive TV screens displaying the plentiful amounts of sweet treats offered. With over 20 different flavors of Italian ice and frozen custard sitting in the iceboxes, choosing the perfect treat can be a bit challenging.
This Rita’s Italian Ice shop opened in November of 2019, in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been struggling to stay afloat since. But, things are starting to look up for the new Italian ice and frozen custard shop.
The idea of opening a Rita’s franchise in Parker first came to Cameron Nuss in 2016, when he met his ex-wife, Cori Pitts. Because Rita’s originated in Philadelphia and is considered to be an East Coast treat, the two of them decided to bring a shop to Parker.
“We just thought the concept is something different,” Nuss said. “It’s not your average ice cream store, and we thought it would do good in Colorado.”
But opening the shop was no easy task for Nuss. He let out a short chuckle when listing off all of the roadblocks he encountered while opening the store. The first major problem the soon-to-be Rita’s owner stumbled upon was a two-year delay in construction.
“I’ve heard that Parker is a difficult place to do construction,” Nuss said. “Which come to find out, we ran into when we did the build-out ourselves.”
The construction delay forced Nuss to open up shop in the fall of 2019, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“We opened up behind schedule, which put us right in the middle of wintertime,” said Walter Nuss, a helping hand and father to Cameron Nuss. “That’s not the greatest time of year for our business. It tends to be seasonal.”
Walter Nuss describes himself as just an old, retired guy who is helping out his son. Once a businessman himself, Walter enjoys the youthful and welcoming environment of his son’s store. Just the fact that he gets to work alongside his son and watch the store grow is enough to make him one proud father.
“He succeeded in what I thought we were going to be able to do,” Walter said when talking about the success of his son’s store.
For the past two years, Cameron Nuss has been hard at work trying to get people to try his store’s unique products. In hopes to make a profit during the pandemic, Nuss started to utilize food delivery services like Grubhub and Doordash. He continues to be aggressive in his coupon distribution to help draw customers into his store. During the 2022 spring school semester, Nuss is planning to hold and attend high school spirit nights with his Rita’s Italian ice trailer.
Nuss had originally planned to use his Rita’s trailer during the summer of 2020, but the pandemic had a different idea. Because major events like county fairs and Parker Days were canceled, Nuss was forced to keep his trailer in storage.
Since the pandemic panic is starting to die down a bit, business at Rita’s is starting to gain some ground. The past two summers in particular, Nuss has noticed a rise in sales. With word out about the new Rita’s, many East Coast natives are rushing in to taste some of their favorite treats once again.
“Honestly, it’s just really good, and it’s the same every time,” said a frequent customer of Rita’s.
Because Parker is a family-friendly community, Nuss strives for his store to hold the same value. He preaches customer service as one of the most important aspects of his business.
“Customer service is number one,” said Skylar Hane, an employee at Rita’s. “We always try to help the customers to the best of our ability and describe the menu.”
Nuss is proud of the strides his new business is making. So much so, he is considering opening up another Rita’s Italian Ice franchise. But, with the winter months bringing in cold weather, business at Rita’s is expected to slow yet again.
“I can definitely see a bit of a latituding tunnel,” Nuss said. “But right now, it’s going back to being pretty slow.”