Partners Have 'cool' Idea For Company

By Cece Nunn, posted May 21, 2021
Restaurant industry veterans Jeremy Fenton (from left) and Bill Farriss have partnered on a business that provides mobile refrigeration to restaurants and other establishments that need it. (Photo by Cece Nunn)
When the walk-in cooler at Fentoni’s Pizza stopped working last year, the Carolina Beach Boardwalk restaurant lost $3,000 worth of cheese alone before the cooler could be fixed.
That’s just one example of the kind of costly problem a cooler or freezer going down can create for restaurants. Hurricanes, for example, can cause massive power outages, resulting in heavy losses for restaurants and other businesses that rely on refrigeration.
As a result of Hurricane Florence in September 2018, thousands of Wilmingtonian homes and businesses lost power, and at least 890,000 in the state were without power Sept. 14, the day the storm made landfall near Wrightsville Beach.
Bill Farriss and his partner, Fentoni’s owner Jeremy Fenton, created a business to address the issue of needing to keep food cold or frozen no matter what: Blizzard Bill’s Mobile Refrigeration.
Farriss had been ruminating on the “cool” idea for a while before it came to fruition.
“This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time that we need to have in the hospitality industry,” he said.
Farriss has two other businesses, which include Farriss Hospitality, a company he founded about 16 years ago to help restaurant owners and other facilities buy equipment, design their spaces and get needed permits.
Farriss can be working on anywhere from six to 15 commercial and/or institutional kitchen projects at one time for Farriss Hospitality. These days, he has 15 projects in the works. He’s also a partner in Capital Coastal Investments, which is a real estate company.
For Blizzard Bill’s, he was able to find a company in Florida that makes the mobile refrigeration units he and Fenton wanted.
“The unique part about these trailers, that can be a walk-in cooler or a walk-in freezer, is they are mobile, and they can be at the job site within an hour, if it’s local, for an emergency need,” Farriss said.
The state-of-the art German refrigeration system can run the mobile units at 35 degrees Fahrenheit for a walk-in cooler or 0 degrees for a freezer, he said. The system can also run for a year at those temperatures, Farriss said.
“It’s very hard to achieve that,” he said.
A generator can sit on the front “tongue” of the mobile unit if necessary.
“The neat thing about these units, unlike other units, is they don’t require gasoline, just a simple 115-volt outlet, not a 208, not a 220, but a simple 115-volt outlet, just plug into a standard outlet,” Farriss said.
Besides hurricanes or other things that can cause power outages, another common reason restaurants need mobile refrigeration is when they have to tear out their walk-ins to replace them.
That has to be done every 15 years or so for inland restaurants, every 10 years or so for those at the beach, said Fenton, who in addition to owning Fentoni’s, installs, services and repairs commercial kitchens through his firm, Hood Services. That work is one of the reasons why he wanted to partner with Farriss in the mobile refrigeration business.
“Between him [Farriss] and I, we know every business owner as far as a restaurant in this town and stretched up probably close to Raleigh. So from my side of it, I’m the one pulling off the walk-ins; I’m the one putting in the new walk-ins,” Fenton said.
With the mobile refrigeration units, Fenton said, “I don’t have to tell customers to shut down. They can plug it in and be running and still open. While we’re swapping out walk-ins, it can take time. Between permitting and inspections, it can take five days to actually get up and running.”
The first restaurant owner to rent one of the units used it for a catering job at the Brooklyn Arts Center in downtown Wilmington, Farriss said.
The customer was chef Bobby Zimmerman, of True Blue Butcher & Table at The Forum off Military Cutoff Road and Mariposa Tapas Bar and True Blue Butcher & Barrel (expected to open in the fall) in the South Front District in Wilmington.
“He loved it,” Farriss said of Zimmerman. “He’s already got one booked for Thanksgiving through Christmas for all his extra frozen proteins.”
The outside of each Blizzard Bill’s unit has a logo that includes a penguin, the mascot of the business, and each unit features a different penguin design.
For example, the Blizzard No. 3 unit will have a penguin with a fish in its mouth, Fariss said, because it needs to be distinguished as a unit that can be rented only for seafood needs.
“Jessica Caines with Southern Sign Co. [of Wilmington] was so instrumental in the marketing, in the logo of this business, we can’t thank her enough,” Fariss said.
The unit dubbed Blizzard No. 6 will only be partly a walk-in and will include a shank beer system, a hand sink and a roll-up door, so “this could be a mobile bar for events or festivals or weddings or caterings,” Farris said.
While they have two now, he said he and Fenton plan to expand the number of Blizzard Bill’s units to 10 to 12. Farriss said another potential application for the business is a florist who needs the extra room for Valentine’s Day or other major flower holiday.
“Farriss Hospitality is a good anchor business. This will actually complement Farriss Hospitality, but it’ll wind up being its own anchor,” Farriss said. “We feel very good about where the business can go.”
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