Store owner Eric Meyer, left, with Taylor Diamond, who manages both Ice Import stores in Waterford and Mystic. Another is on its way to the US Virgin Islands.
A local entrepreneur whose retail business benefited from the economic downturn of COVID is expanding from the Connecticut Coast to the Caribbean.
Eric Meyer’s business, which he founded 20 years ago, consists of two retail stores with highly unusual, eclectic inventory, one in Crystal Mall in Waterford and the other in Olde Mistick Village in Mystic. A third location is in the final planning for the US Virgin Islands. This success stems not only from Meyer’s entrepreneurial drive, but also—as strange as it may sound—from the pandemic that has wreaked so much havoc on so many businesses.
In the months leading up to the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, Meyer’s business, though long established with a loyal clientele, struggled to generate enough positive cash flow to maintain inventory. Then, external events intervened and helped him, with hard work and strong family support, get the business back on track. Today, it is thriving.
The first of these events was connecting with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), through one of their free workshops. SCORE is a nationwide nonprofit association and resource partner of the US Small Business Administration that provides free confidential advice to small business owners. His SCORE mentors helped him establish financial controls and reporting systems that strengthened his grasp of his business’s finances.
The second source was the low-interest, long-term federal loan he received to help cope with COVID-19. The pandemic also prompted the state to implement a two-month shutdown, which gave it the breathing space it needed to regroup and use government loans to build inventory. As a result, it was prepared to welcome customers back after the shutdown with inventory to capitalize on pent-up demand.
Meyer’s business is now booming, and he has identified retail space in Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the US Virgin Islands, for his third store.
“I can throw a baseball out the front door of the store into the ocean,” Meyer says. “We will be located right where the tourists come in. It’s a retailer’s dream.
“My talent is recognizing products that are ‘cool,'” says Meyer, “products that people will buy and come back for more.”
Its product offering in its two existing stores includes gemstones and gemstone jewellery; swords, daggers and armor; incense and burning incense, statues and decor, and metaphysical items. (https://iceimports.com/)
Meyer credits many people in addition to his SCORE mentors, notably including his store manager, Taylor Diamond. She has been an important part of his success for 13 years, managing both stores. His family, especially his wife, has been a vital source of support.
“If I had to describe myself in one word, it would be ‘grateful,'” says Meyer. “Grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and the people who’ve helped me take advantage of them.”
Hugh M. Ryan is a certified mentor for the Southeastern Connecticut Chapter of SCORE. He can be reached at email@example.com.