back arrowThe Distance

Mr. Freeze


Episode description

In the 1970s, ice carving was the province of chefs at high-end hotels that made the sculptures part of their decor for Sunday brunch. Jim Nadeau came out of this tradition. Then, in 1980, he got the idea to start his own ice carving business in the Chicago area. Nadeau's Ice Sculptures was among the first specialty carving shops to open and helped take the craft out of upscale hotel kitchens and into the mass market.

episodes iconMore Episodes

Rework - Sell Your By-products

August 15th, 2017


This is the first episode of our brand new podcast called Rework. If you like it you can subscribe to Rework on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

Welcome to the first episode of Rework! This podcast is …

Business Model

August 1st, 2017


Lily Liu was 16 years old when a talent scout approached her at a department store. She started her career as a model, but found her true calling …

Going to the Mattresses

July 18th, 2017


Tim Masters describes himself as "just a mattress maker," but that belies the business acumen he's gained over decades of building and selling beds. Tim's store in the Chicago suburbs, Quality Sleep Shop, opened in 1969 …

If It Ain't Baroque, Don't Fix It

July 3rd, 2017


Ben and Larry are longtime owners of two different music-related businesses, a payroll service for musicians and an auctioneer of rare classical LPs. …

Troy Henikoff

June 20th, 2017


Troy Henikoff was a college student in 1984 when he wrote his first program, a piece of software to help his grandfather's steel warehouse manage …

The Business Cycle, Part 2

June 6th, 2017


In 2010, as Worksman Cycles was emerging from the recession and ready to grow again, the maker of heavy-duty cycles saw an exciting opportunity to supply the bikes for New York City's bike share program. But the city …

The Business Cycle, Part 1

May 23rd, 2017


Worksman Cycles is the oldest American bicycle manufacturer that still makes its products in the U.S. Founded in New York in 1898, Worksman has …

Steeped in History

May 9th, 2017


Nom Wah Tea Parlor is New York Chinatown's oldest dim sum restaurant. For decades, it served Cantonese dumplings and rolls in the traditional way, …

Make It Rain

April 25th, 2017


Matt Stock is a business owner who loves marketing and has embraced the unglamorous job of selling a pretty mundane service: basement waterproofing. He's tried everything from Yellow Pages to billboards to Internet …

You Butter Believe It!

April 11th, 2017


Every year in the weeks leading up to Easter, the four-person staff at Danish Maid Butter Co. starts counting sheep. The Chicago company has made …

Jungle Jim, I Presume?

March 28th, 2017


In an industry known for selling commodities at low margins, Jungle Jim's International Market in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio is something else entirely. It's a super-sized grocery store that's also a tourist attraction …

The Richest Man In Town

March 14th, 2017


Cullinan's Stadium Club and Beverly Records sit next door to each other in the Chicago neighborhood of Morgan Park. The owners of the two businesses …

All the Art That's Fit to Print

February 28th, 2017


In 1989, Deborah Maris Lader had recently moved to Chicago and was looking for a studio where she could make prints and meet other artists. She …

Solo Act

February 14th, 2017


Bruce Roper never planned to start a business. As a teenager, he wanted to be a Beatle. As an adult, he moved to Chicago after a brief stint running …

Diamonds Are Forever

January 31st, 2017


Jewelry tells a story. For Kathy, the owner of a 90-year-old jewelry store in Berwyn, Illinois, every piece of her jewelry adds up to a larger, …

Neighborhood Fixture

January 17th, 2017


The neighborhood appliance store is all but gone from the American retail landscape. But on Chicago's north side, Cole's Appliance and Furniture Co. …

(rerun) - If These Cubicle Walls Could Talk

January 3rd, 2017


The modern office has gone from private offices to cubicles, and from cube farms to more open spaces with lower partitions. All those changes have been good business for Office Furniture Resources, which is marking 25 …

(rerun) - Homestead for the Holidays

December 20th, 2016


The Richardson family arrived in Spring Grove, Illinois in 1840, when brothers Robert and Frank each claimed 80 acres of farmland that had become available for homesteading. Successive generations of Richardsons tried …

Clothes Call

December 6th, 2016


When the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series, Jim Piko Jr. wasn't just thrilled as a longtime fan of the team. Marathon Sportswear, the screen printing company his father started in the family garage in 1980, began …

Help Wanted

November 29th, 2016


In 2009, as Chicago manufacturer Wiegel Tool Works was emerging from the recession and wanting to hire again, company president Aaron Wiegel noticed …

Test of Metal

November 22nd, 2016


Otto Wiegel founded Wiegel Tool Works the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. This year, his three grandchildren mark the manufacturing …

Party Foul

November 15th, 2016


The products that AR-EN Party Printers makes—customized items like gift tags and coasters—are a luxury and not a necessity, but that doesn't make them any less important to the company's customers. AR-EN can't afford to …

Party in the Front, Business in the Back

November 8th, 2016


When Gary Morrison's mother and her best friend got into the foil-stamped napkin business in 1979, the two women were just looking for a side project …

Cremains To Be Seen

November 1st, 2016


From seagrass caskets to biodegradable urns designed for water burials, there is a growing number of options when it comes to burying the dead. In this mini episode, Claudette Zarzycki of Zarzycki Manor Chapels, a …

Home is Where the Hearse Is

October 25th, 2016


Four generations of the Zarzycki family have lived behind or above their funeral home, starting with founder Agnes Zarzycki, the first woman funeral …

Stranger Things

October 18th, 2016


It takes a lot of work to make a dead body appear healthy and lifelike. It also takes a lot of chemicals, like the kind manufactured by 124-year-old …

Job Preservation

October 11th, 2016


The modern practice of embalming started in the U.S. during the Civil War, and Brian Yeazel's family got into the embalming fluid business a few decades later. Frigid Fluid, the company his great great uncle founded in …

Uphill Climb

October 4th, 2016


R. Russell Builders is still recovering from the worst housing market it's experienced in its 60-year history. But before "subprime mortgage" was a …

The House that Russell Built

September 27th, 2016


The housing crisis wiped out half of the homebuilders in the U.S. This is the story of one that survived, but emerged from the recession to find both itself and its industry drastically changed. Ron Russell Sr. founded …

The Man on the Wall

September 20th, 2016


Willie David Langford Senior's picture is on the wall of Langford's Barber Shop, the business he founded in Atlanta in 1964. The barber shop has long been a neighborhood haven, not least of all for the many kids who …

Grateful Heads

September 13th, 2016


LaMichael Langford grew up watching his uncle run a barber shop and would sneak in his friends to cut their hair. LaMichael eventually took over the …

It's a Hardware Life

September 6th, 2016


John Stallworth has worked almost non-stop at his hardware store for over 40 years. He's passed that work ethic down to his son, John Jr., who works alongside his father at the shop on Chicago's South Side. In this mini …

Unchanging Gears

August 30th, 2016


John Stallworth has been selling hardware and fixing bikes at his shop on Chicago's South Side for 50 years, helping to anchor a neighborhood that's …

Soy Meets World

August 23rd, 2016


Jenny Yang held many different jobs in Taiwan and the U.S. before discovering her passion: running one of Chicago's oldest tofu manufacturers. In …

Soy You Bought a Tofu Factory

August 16th, 2016


In 1999, Jenny Yang discovered a small tofu company in her Chicago neighborhood that made the fresh soybean curd she remembered from her native Taiwan. Seven years later, when Jenny learned the business was in danger of …

Director's Cut

August 9th, 2016


Choosing and taking care of a knife can be an intimidating process for home cooks. In this mini episode, Northwestern Cutlery owner Marty Petlicki …

Knife Work If You Can Get It

August 2nd, 2016


In 1972, when two cousins opened Northwestern Cutlery, their knife rental and sharpening business, they chose a location in Chicago near the city's meatpackers. Over the next decades, the dramatic transformation of the …

Junk in the Trunk

July 26th, 2016


We ride along with a two-man 1-800-GOT-JUNK truck team in Vancouver, British Columbia and learn about what they will and won't take (no bed bugs or …

The Rubbish Boy

July 19th, 2016


Brian Scudamore was 19 when he set up his junk-hauling business with a used pick-up truck and a stack of business cards. But his ambitions were …

Swan Song

July 12th, 2016


In the ice sculpture world of the 70s and 80s, swans ruled the roost. Jim Nadeau carved a swan every Sunday for the brunch service of the hotel where …

Code TH

June 28th, 2016


The Nedra Matteucci Galleries in Santa Fe, New Mexico draws many visitors looking to admire or buy fine artwork. Then there are the treasure hunters, who come to the gallery looking for clues about a chest of valuables …

Humble Adobe

June 21st, 2016


Santa Fe, New Mexico is home to around 200 art galleries. Even in this thriving art scene, Nedra Matteucci's gallery stands out. The 44-year-old …

A Lively Conversation, Part 2

June 14th, 2016


In the second half of the conversation between Paul McKenna of Starship restaurant and Anne Pezalla and Kate Pezalla Marlin of Lively Athletics, the …

A Lively Conversation, Part 1

June 7th, 2016


We're trying something new with this episode. It's a conversation between business owners on different ends of the experience spectrum. Sisters Anne Pezalla and Kate Pezalla Marlin opened their women's athletic apparel …

Resurrection Mary

May 31st, 2016


With 95 years of history behind it, the Willowbrook Ballroom in Willow Springs, Ill. has seen many generations of dancers come and go. One dancer in …

Save the Last Dance

May 24th, 2016


When Birute and Gediminas Jodwalis bought the Willowbrook Ballroom from the business' founding family nearly 20 years ago, they inherited an intensely loyal but shrinking customer base of Sunday afternoon dancers. The …

Children of the Corn

May 17th, 2016


The primary business at the Funk family farm is maple syrup production. But the farm also grows corn and soybeans to supplement the income from maple syrup. Mike and Debby Funk, the fifth generation to farm on the …

Funk Yeah!

May 10th, 2016


Central Illinois is a long way from Vermont or Canada, but that hasn't stopped the Funk family of Funks Grove, Ill., from building a …

(rerun) - High Fidelity

April 26th, 2016


Some of the audio world's most revered headphones come out of a narrow, graffiti-covered house in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood. Grado Labs has been handcrafting phono cartridges and headphones at this location …

Keeping Those Refrigerators Running

April 19th, 2016


In the early 80s, long before he became the CEO of LION, his family-owned manufacturing company, Steve Schwartz ran his college fraternity's …

Fire Sale

April 12th, 2016


LION's products can mean the difference between life and death for the customers of this family-owned company, which makes protective clothing and training equipment for firefighters. From its origins in 1898 as a …


April 5th, 2016


The 2014 ownership transition at Women & Children First was an emotional process, as the founders of the feminist bookstore sold their business …

Independent Women

March 29th, 2016


Throw your hands up at me! In 1979, Ann Christopherson and Linda Bubon opened a store in Chicago to sell books by and about women. Their business, …

Cold Storage

March 22nd, 2016


The Great Depression hit shortly after Joe and Katherine Sapp opened their Chicago ice cream shop, Original Rainbow Cone, and subsequent generations of Sapps haven't forgotten what it meant to almost lose everything. In …

Rainbow Connection

March 15th, 2016


Opening an ice cream store in Chicago is not for the faint of heart. Factor in a mostly deserted neighborhood and the Great Depression, and the idea of selling ice cream looks utterly harebrained. Yet that's exactly …

If These Cubicle Walls Could Talk

March 1st, 2016


The modern office has gone from private offices to cubicles, and from cube farms to more open spaces with lower partitions. All those changes have been good business for Office Furniture Resources, which is marking 25 …

Getting the Boot

February 23rd, 2016


Shaun Hildner, co-producer of The Distance, goes shopping for cowboy boots at Alcala's Western Wear and learns "an old cowboy trick" from business …

Bootstrapped and Proud

February 16th, 2016


As an urban metropolis east of the Mississippi River, Chicago might seem like an unlikely home for a purveyor of cowboy hats, boots and shirts. Yet …

Pulp Fixing

February 2nd, 2016


Human history comes with a long paper trail, and Graphic Conservation Company's mission is to preserve and restore that record. The 95-year-old lab …

Always Glad You Came

January 19th, 2016


Bill Carlson describes his business as "a little shot and a beer bar," but the 61-year-old Uptown Tavern has always been more than a dive. It's a …

A 102-Year Winning Streak

January 5th, 2016


Bowlers Journal International is the longest-running sports monthly in the United States, and it's a print magazine that's held on to a remarkably loyal base of subscribers and advertisers since its founding in 1913 by …

Holiday Bow-nus

December 24th, 2015


In this mini episode, Carol Richardson of Richardson Farm explains how to tie a perfect bow.

Homestead for the Holidays

December 22nd, 2015


The Richardson family arrived in Spring Grove, Illinois in 1840, when brothers Robert and Frank each claimed 80 acres of farmland that had become available for homesteading. Successive generations of Richardsons tried …

Dance Marathon

December 8th, 2015


Kerry Hubata started dancing at the age of eight and hasn't stopped. In 1968, she and her mentor opened a classical ballet studio in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. The two women never set out to be entrepreneurs, but …

Chocoholic Anonymous

November 24th, 2015


Athena Uslander is the Cyrano de Bergerac of brownies. The company she co-founded in 1983, Silverland Bakery, makes sweet treats that are sold under …

Family Medicine

November 10th, 2015


When Abdul Qaiyum, a young Pakistani immigrant, discovered Merz Apothecary in 1972, the Swiss German drugstore was on the verge of closing …

Grave Matters

October 27th, 2015


The Peter Troost Monument Company has been making grave markers, headstones and mausoleums in the Chicago area since 1889. The issue of longevity has …

The Bales Girls

October 13th, 2015


Stacey Bales has worked in almost every department at her family manufacturing business, from the front office to the shop floor. But when it came to running the entire company, she expected her father, Steve, to do …

Ancient History, Modern Family

September 29th, 2015


As students of history, Harlan Berk and his three children know that circumstances around them can change rapidly. They've learned to adapt the family business through 51 years of buying and selling ancient coins, as …

Farming Like the Joneses

September 15th, 2015


The Jones family has been farming in Iowa for generations. They have weathered tough winters, the consolidation of small family farms and the farm …

(redux) - The World's Largest Laundromat

September 1st, 2015


There's been a laundromat on this corner of Berwyn, Illinois for more than a half century. But it was the current owner, Tom Benson, who made the World's Largest Laundromat into the family-friendly destination it is …

Pipe Dreams

August 18th, 2015


The warehouse at Carma Labs in Franklin, Wisconsin is filled with boxes of the 78-year-old company's signature product, Carmex lip balm. But there's …

It Soothes, It Heals, It Tingles

August 4th, 2015


Alfred Woelbing made the first batch of Carmex at his kitchen stovetop in 1937. He was looking for a cold sore treatment and came up with a hit lip …

Cheesecake, the Chicago Way

July 21st, 2015


The list of classic Chicago foods includes pizza, hot dogs, Italian beef—and Eli's Cheesecake, a creamy confection with a hint of sour cream and a butter shortbread cookie crust. The dessert was first served at Eli's …

High Fidelity

July 7th, 2015


Some of the audio world's most revered headphones come out of a narrow, graffiti-covered house in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood. Grado Labs has been handcrafting phono cartridges and headphones at this location …

Wholesale Changes

June 23rd, 2015


Chicago's Fulton Market district is the city's last remaining food market, a hub for meatpackers and wholesalers of agricultural products. But a wave …

Bonus Episode: Jason Fried

June 17th, 2015


Jason Fried co-founded Basecamp in 1999 and in 2014 launched The Distance. Shaun Hildner sat down with Jason to talk about The Distance and the kinds of business stories that interest him.

Ashland Addison Florist Co.

June 9th, 2015


In 1932, an orphan named Roy Sheffield started Ashland Addison Florist Co. by selling bouquets of flowers at a busy Chicago intersection. Eight decades later, the fourth generation of Sheffields is still delivering …

Richard Bennett Custom Tailors

May 5th, 2015


Albert Karoll started his custom menswear business from his Chicago apartment with just a phone, a legal pad and a book of fabric swatches that he …

Victory Auto Wreckers

April 7th, 2015


Chicagoans of a certain age can recall growing up with the Victory Auto Wreckers television commercial, a low-budget ad that seemed to run endlessly on afternoons and late nights. It turns out that 30-second spot, …

Ideal Box Co.

March 5th, 2015


When Al Capone needed crates to smuggle liquor to his speakeasies, he bought boxes from a Chicago manufacturer called Ideal Box Co. Today, the company is run the Eisen brothers, whose great-grandfather started the …


February 17th, 2015


In the early days of fast food, restaurants like McDonald's and Burger King made their burgers onsite, and they relied on Harry Holly's patty-molding …

The World's Largest Laundromat

February 3rd, 2015


Yes, that's the actual name of this business, and there's more to it than just its 13,500 square feet. The World's Largest Laundromat serves free food, provides children's entertainment and offers workshops to customers …

Loading ...

Download the RadioPublic app for
 FREE and never miss an episode.

Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store