Meet The Founders: Eric Alperin & Gordon Bellaver of Penny Pound Ice
If you’re a cocktail enthusiast, you probably have most of the essentials for your home bar.
Shaker? Check. Strainer? Check. Old Fashioned, Martini, and Champagne Coupe glassware? Odds are, you have those on hand, too.
Your home set-up seemingly has everything, including you, the cute bartender. But, for the complete speakeasy experience, you’re going to want clean, dense, clear, and expertly-carved ice. In fact, it might be the most important ingredient in your cocktail! With carefully carved cubes from Penny Pound Ice, you’re guaranteed perfect sips from start to finish.
Penny Pound Ice was founded by Eric Alperin, the renowned mixologist who first made his name at hotspots like Nancy Silverton’s Osteria Mozza. With help from partner Gordon Bellaver, Penny Pound Ice has reshaped the home cocktail experience.
Recently, we caught up with Eric and Gordon to learn more about their journey and hear their advice for fellow entrepreneurs.
01 Why did you start Penny Pound Ice?
Eric: Penny Pound started because I wanted my first cocktail bar, The Varnish, to have signature ice blocks crafted with historical techniques. A few of my partners were also involved with other bars that needed specialty ice. Once we were off and running, we were flooded with requests from outside clients. With that, Penny Pound Ice was born!
Gordon: Penny Pound Ice is Eric’s baby, I was just one of his bartenders at The Varnish. That was one of my first bartending jobs, and that’s where I learned to fully appreciate the hard work that goes into expertly-carved ice.
02 What obstacles did you face along the way?
Eric: Growth was a major challenge in the beginning, but word-of-mouth brought us more visibility and demand. Once we expanded our delivery area, business really started to pick up.
Gordon: To me, the biggest obstacle was outgrowing our first facility. We had to ramp up production and that forced us to find satellite locations and hire new staffers. Ultimately, we got it done, because we always find a way to keep our customers happy.
03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Eric: See failures as lessons that will drive future success. Our current success comes from endless trial and error, plus a willingness to pivot whenever we need to adapt. Also – surround yourself with innovative partners that share your vision.
Gordon: Before you go all in, figure out all of your costs and how you can differentiate your company from the competitors. If you just go-go-go without a total blueprint, it can bite you in the ass. Also, if you want to start a business, it better have an ethos to it.
04 What’s on the horizon for Penny Pound Ice?
Eric: We are expanding into frozen cocktail mixers to bring the full bar experience home. Look out for Penny Pouch – coming soon!
Gordon: We’re very excited about Penny Pouch. It’s going to be a one-stop-shop to meet the needs of everyone from industry professionals to home enthusiasts.
05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?
Eric: Yoga is critical to my work/life balance. Also, we make sure to encourage our team members to follow their passions, both inside and outside of the factory. That includes book clubs and activities outside of business hours, because there’s so much more to life than work, even when you love your job. Meanwhile, we’re constantly motivated by our conversations with customers. It’s great to know that our product has brought so much joy to so many people.
Gordon: I work with people who like to work, so we all struggle with life balance. Finding activities that keep me mentally stimulated are the best diversions. Getting out of the city also helps clear my mind. I’m driven by a desire for constant improvement – I’m always inspired to keep tweaking things, because nothing can be perfect forever.