The Morehouse student climbed the ladder as the Morehouse man held onto the storefront’s awning. The older man pulled it down as the younger man worked on stapling the sky blue cloth over the unwanted one. The plan was to cover the original advertisements of cigarettes, beer and lotto with something more attuned to the new mission of the business.
Glaciers Italian Ice owner/operator Ian Elmore-Moore wanted to create a business that was not only in need in southwest Atlanta but also wanted to change the community he grew to love after moving here to attend college from one of New Jersey’s toughest neighborhoods. “In order to get an authentic Italian ice I have to go to Rita’s in Brookhaven or someplace else, there’s no place to buy one around here,” said Elmore-Moore, 31. An author- his book ‘Grow Moore: The Six Steps to Success’ is on leadership and development- and business owner, Elmore-Moore hires young Black men like the one on the ladder, Robert Marshall II, to work at Glaciers Italian Ice.
The business model is simple: provide a missing service in a food desert on MLK, Jr. Drive while helping young Black men learn about running a business. All the while keeping these boys, most often teenagers, off of the streets. Marshall, a 21-year-old Virginia native, should not be considered an at-risk youth. He is heading into his senior year at Morehouse with goals, plans and by most accounts a future. He has plans to bring home more than a paycheck from his time at Glaciers. “I’m working here to learn how to be more involved in my community,” he said. “That is one of the pillars they teach us at Morehouse, to make our community better than when we arrived.”
On a warm Sunday afternoon Elmore-Moore, Marshall II and a 16-year-old mountaineer named Michael Toller sat behind the counter at the Glaciers Italian Ice store in the Florida Heights neighborhood. Mountaineers are what Elmore-Moore calls the teenagers that are employed at Glaciers. Marshall II is considered a mentor because of his age and education level. Glacier boys are the young kids, usually aged 10-12, that hang around the store during the day. They can’t legally work so they listen to Elmore-Moore, his long-time friend and business partner Jalani Traxler and Matthew McKinney, a manager at Glaciers. The younger kids are learning chess on Wednesdays and math throughout the week.
Elmore-Moore, a husband and father of a one-year-old, wants to include the younger kids in the neighborhood as much as he’s legally allowed. “I talk to them all the time, they are going to get instruction like everyone else,” he said with a laugh. 10-year-old Zacherias Johnson, dressed in a bright yellow t-shirt and matching Crocs, lives nearby and is a regular at the store. Johnson agrees that he doesn’t get a break from Elmorte-Moore’s instruction. “He’s always telling me stuff,” he said.
“I can preach and teach all day but if I can’t meet their needs then the drug dealers will have the advantage,” said Elmore-Moore about providing jobs and educational opportunities for the young men and kids that work and spend time at Glaciers.
Inspiration among desperation
The death of Jalanni Pless, an 18-year-old Black man that was murdered by a fellow water boy over $10, triggered Elmore-Moore to add the youth component to his business plan. Once a young man that was teetering on getting in trouble and kicked out of college, he changed his life with the help of his Morehouse professors, administrators and mentors. “I had to give back the way people gave back to me,” Elmore-Moore told The Atlanta Voice.
The death of another young Black man wouldn’t have to happen if there were jobs to keep them busy during the summers and after school. Glaciers Italian Ice is providing nearly 10 jobs to area youth. Moments earlier Traxler and McKinney took a few of their respective teams of mountaineers to Westside Park and Grant Park to sell Italian ices and to continue getting the word out about the business.
Asked why he thinks the Glaciers youth employment model is important Traxler called it “crucial” and said, “Every business should be doing this. Why isn’t McDonald’s or Subway doing this? We want to lead the way.”
McKinney, quietly packed the necessary tools for the day -a cube to take payments and two donation boxes for anyone looking to leave a tip- and said of the opportunity to employ young men in this way, “I believe every business should employ young people. Their minds need to be cultivated and we can share our experiences with them through honest work.”
Tremaine Hutchinson, 16, came through the door to get some pre-packaged product to place in the Glaciers Italian Ice van for the trip. Unlike more established businesses like King of Pops, Glaciers doesn’t yet have the permit to scoop and serve. They are permitted to sell pre-packed ices however. “I have spoken to [King of Pops CEO] Steve Carse about the business,” said Elmore-Moore.
A different vibe
The building at 2185 MLK, Jr. Drive had packs of cigarettes, a slot machine and the word “Beer” painted on it when Elmore-Moore leased it from the landlord, also a Morehouse alum. The first thing he wanted to do was clean up the image of the location and a coat of fresh paint was in order.
The building is now painted white and awaits local artists to help with painting more positive murals on the exterior. For the moment there’s a small image of a blue Italian ice near front steps that read “Watch your step.”
Elmore-Moore says area residents that drop by to get a cool mango or strawberry-lemonade Italian ice have a different opinion of the store that once had drugs being sold out of it. “People walk in here now and they say that there’s a different vibe,” said Elmore-Moore.
The gambling machine and freers full of beer are long gone. “We have transformed the place.”
New experiences, new exposures
The motto for the Black youth employment model at Glaciers is based on keeping the employees safe, employed, educated and exposed. It was originally “SEE” but after taking his team to Truist Park to sell Italian ice and watching how the kids reacted to being out of their environment Elmore-Moore added the extra “E” for exposure. The kids he took on that trip a few weeks ago were exposed to another Atlanta. A week later there was a private event at a home near Piedmont Park. The mountaineers he brought to the event were shocked anyone had a house that big. “The exposure, that’s what this is about. Exposing these young men to what this city looks like,” he said.
“I want to put carts in all of the parks,” said Elmore-Moore about the businesses five-year plan. “We can show people that Black men can work together and improve our community together.”
Glaciers Italian Ice, which opened in July 2021, has applied for and been awarded grants but there’s still money to be raised in order to keep the business running, says Elmore-Moore. “We don’t want any handouts, we would just like an opportunity,” he said.
Some of the permits for Atlanta’s many outdoor festivals can cost up to $2,000. A food vendor application for the Atlanta Jazz Festival, which took place in May, cost between $1,000-$4,000. “I haven’t made a dollar from this business but I just believe this is going to work out,” said Elmore-Moore.
The goal for icee and ice cream brands is to be sold in the freezer sections of supermarket brands such as Kroger, Publix and Walmart. Having the Glaciers brand in stores will make it easier for Elmore-Moore and his business partners to carry on their mission of providing jobs for young men
“I would like to teach and mentor 50 young Black men within the next five years,” said Elmore-Moore.