The sweet and treats business is recession proof, according to Warwick Ice Cream President Gerald Bucci. In the 40 years he’s been president, he said he followed trends that revealed people like to treat themselves when money is tight. He said the new administration is good for business, and considering Bucci is looking to expand the ice cream manufacturing business to add in a large frozen food storage facility, he may be right.
“When there is a depression, people tend to eat more. They buy little treats. Frozen desserts is recession proof," Bucci said.
In addition to manufacturing an annual average of almost 2 million gallons of ice cream, Warwick Ice Cream distributes Prairie Farms and North Star frozen treats across the state, and co-packs with numerous other companies.
“As we continue to grow, it’s a juggle to grow within the strengths of this facility,” he said.
Bucci eyed the defunct Sam’s Club building on Place Boulevard in Warwick but said he was denied. He said the company would like to stay in Rhode Island in the Warwick, West Warwick or Coventry area.
For the time being, the plant is open six days a week, keeping up as well as it can. The two-story yellow brick building, located at 743 Bald Hill Road, is close to the busy road, with a small parking lot out front and a shipping and receiving area big enough for one or two large trucks.
“We’re trying to get trucks in and out of here without disturbing traffic. We have two, three or four pick-ups daily; sometimes the trucks are lined up on the street. It’s been causing problems, the police have been giving us a hard time.”
Time changed the scenery surrounding the manufacturer. What was once the Knight Estate Farm (the area where CCRI and Rhode Island Mall are located) is now a busy area loaded with retail stores. Bucci said conversations with the city of Warwick regarding purchasing a storage facility nearby are a struggle because the city would rather support more retail businesses in the area.
Surrounded by a wall with yellowed newspaper clippings and family photos, Bucci recited the history of the facility like he’s said it every day since he started in 1977. He’s the third generation of his family to take control since his grandparents started making ice cream in 1930. Gerald’s son, Vincent Bucci and nephew Thomas Bucci Jr. are preparing to carry on the family business so Gerald can ease into retirement– his sights are set on in Key West. Bucci credited Thomas and Vincent with the collaboration with Autocrat Coffee syrup, which hit the shelves last year with coffee-flavored ice cream and returned this year with an additional flavor of Autocrat coffee ice cream with Oreo cookies.
“We had been using Autocrat for years, but we worked together to make a special formula for the newest batch,” and said the team is already brainstorming for next year’s hit flavor. So far, they are considering cookie dough or Heath bar. “I guarantee people will like it.”
Another favorite this summer are the feature flavors Peach and Blueberry Cheesecake. With pieces of crunchy piecrust and fresh blueberries mixed with creamy vanilla ice cream, it is sensational. As a testament to its popularity, the facility was out of Peach, but Bucci confided that some local retailers may have some left in stock.
For the pumpkin lovers, Warwick Ice Cream releases the Pumpkin Pie flavor in October and Egg Nog later in the holiday season.