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Jul 30, 2012 9:48 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Berkoski Ice Sold To Nuzzolese Bros. Ice

Aug 1, 2012 9:05 AM

Berkoski Ice, a family-owned company that has been a stronghold in the Hamptons for almost 50 years, has switched hands, taken over by a businessman who knows it well.

On June 15, Jennifer Berkoski Caruso and her husband, Mike, who have been running the ice business since owner Bill Berkoski Jr., her father, died in March 2011, sold the business to Nuzzolese Bros. Ice of Hicksville.

“The business was doing great … however, it just wasn’t the same without my father and grandfather at the helm,” Ms. Caruso said this week. “My dad was irreplaceable. It was not intended that we continue on running the business.”

Last year, the Berkoski family, including Michele Berkoski, Mr. Berkoski’s widow, and daughters Ms. Caruso, Mandy Berkoski Frantzen, and Lisa Berkoski, pulled together to run the business in the wake of Mr. Berkoski’s death. “We had to pull up our bootstraps,” Ms. Frantzen said last year. “And get in the freezer,” Ms. Caruso added, finishing her sister’s sentence.

Now, after almost a year of successfully running the business, according to Ms. Caruso, it was time to sell to capable and familiar hands. Neither party would disclose the terms of the sale.

“My siblings and I were not groomed to take over, as you would say,” said Ms. Caruso, who is an attorney in Putnam County. Ms. Frantzen lives in Florida and has a master’s degree in business, and the youngest sister, Lisa Berkoski, lives in Boston and is pursuing a master’s degree at Boston College in September. “My dad always encouraged us to become professionals and to follow the paths we all chose.”

Handing over the reins to Mr. Nuzzolese and his sons, the fourth and fifth generations of Nuzzoleses to run their ice business, Ms. Caruso said they are “the right buyer.”

Nuzzolese Bros. Ice has been serving Long Island for almost 100 years, and most recently has been almost a sister business to Berkoski Ice.

“He was my wingman,” Vincent Nuzzolese Jr. said of Mr. Berkoski. The two became friends through their involvement with the International Packaged Ice Association and worked together for many years. “I’d rather have Bill here, believe me, rather than the business. We’re doing everything we can to maintain his legacy and quality of service out here. It was the obvious choice, and it worked out very well for both families.”

Mr. Nuzzolese said that even though the sale has already closed, the company has still been using the Berkoski name. “Our intention is to gradually introduce Nuzzolese Bros.,” he said. “We still have Berkoski Ice truck drivers still wearing their Berkoski T-shirts, and we’re still answering phones under the Berkoski name.”

Not a single job was lost during the transaction. “Our employees are like family,” Ms. Caruso said. “We really wanted to make sure that all our employees were taken care of. That was something the Nuzzoleses definitely understood and honored.”

Mr. Nuzzolese said he expects the transition to be complete by Labor Day. Nuzzolese Bros. Ice bags are currently on order, he said. “We’re upsetting the apple cart by no means,” he said.

“It’s a very easy transfer because the Berkoski and Nuzzolese families’ values are very similar,” said Bobbi Nuzzolese, Mr. Nuzzolese’s wife. “Bill and my husband always helped each other out. My husband really knew Bill’s machines and what was going on out there.”

Nuzzolese Bros. Ice sells its ice to businesses in the Tri-State area, as well as to John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.

Hoping to keep with tradition, Mr. Nuzzolese said his sons, Vincent Jr., Robert and Christopher, will run the business once he retires.

Like a torch from one hand to the next, Ms. Caruso sees the transfer as a smooth one.

“Following my father’s passing, we truly ran it as if we would run it forever, until the sale,” she said. “It’s hard to pass on something that you have so much pride for, that you put your blood, sweat and tears into. But it’s in great hands now.”

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Billy is still missed by all of us in the community who had the pleasure of knowing him! Rest in Peace, Billy!
By Robert I Ross (250), Hampton Bays on Aug 3, 12 8:51 AM
ditto. i met the Nuzzoleses thru bill and they are really good guys, glad to see this go this way, good luck !
By coxie1 (36), southampton on Aug 4, 12 11:40 AM
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