Crosby ensures life-long admiration of daughter by opening Reno’s first Rita’s Italian ice and frozen custard chain
Garrett Crosby was waiting for his luggage to arrive at the baggage claim in Philadelphia in 2017, so to pass the time he started asking locals about their favorite food spots.
As you can imagine, there were countless cheesesteak recommendations; after all, Philly is the cheesesteak capital of the world. There was also a local Italian ice and frozen custard joint called “Rita’s” that was highly recommended.
“I had never heard of frozen custard or Italian ice before so we were excited to try it,” said Crosby, who has called Reno home since he was 3. “Once we did, the rest was history.”
Fast forward two years: Crosby has turned Rita’s into a family business.
Crosby, 26 and a U.S. Air Force veteran who’s been in the Nevada Air National Guard since early 2018, opened Rita’s off Robb Drive and Mae Anne Avenue in Northwest Reno this summer.
Crosby, a husband to Jessica and father of a young daughter, Aurora, invited Reno Dads to his newly-opened dessert spot to talk about fatherhood, family philosophies and how he can easily leverage dessert to get his kid to obey his commands.
What is Rita’s?
Not everyone in Reno has heard about Rita’s because the majority of locations are in the eastern time zone. It started in 1984 when a former firefighter started selling Italian ice, called “water ice” in Philadelphia, from his front porch. Since then, it has grown to 600-plus locations around the world.
“I tell people that that Rita’s is an East Coast classic that originated in Philadelphia,” Crosby said. “The Italian Ice is a sweet, smooth frozen treat made fresh daily on location and hand-scooped to order. Italian ice is made by the same process as ice cream: freezing the ingredients while mixing them together, giving our product its unique flavor and smooth consistency. Frozen Custard is rich and creamy – made with high quality ingredients such as real eggs, cream, and sugar. It’s a premium alternative to soft serve ice cream.”
The business route
Raised by a military family, Crosby knew he would serve his country coming out of McQueen High School. But after that, he was very interested in starting a business – a path started at a very young age.
“I don’t recall exactly, but it was probably around the age of five,” Crosby said. “I was that kid that was knocking on your door asking if I could shovel your driveway, wash your car, mow your lawn, etc.”
Crosby’s first organized “business” was selling goldfish to kids on the playground when he was in fifth grade. He bought the fish for 10 cents and sold them for $1.00.
“Not a bad margin!” he said.
Opening a business has been a large investment in money and time. Crosby said he was working upwards of 100 hours per week prior to the store opening. He’s hoping the investment will pay off financially but also to give him more spare time to spend with the family in the future.
Crosby and his wife, Jessica, have two parenting philosophies.
“One, shower your kids with unconditional love, always,” Crosby said. “Secondly, allow your kids to fail. Only through failure can they learn the skills to build themselves up and have the self-esteem/confidence to tackle any challenge they may face in the future.”
And what are the returns on that philosophy?
“Countless moments come to mind when I think of happy times with my daughter,” he said, “but my favorite is when I pick her up from preschool each day. Her screaming ‘Daddy!’ as she runs towards me for a tight embrace reminds me that my wife and I have done a great job showing her what love is.”
As for most, juggling family and work is tough. The pressure to secure a financial future is high but Crosby said he knows that prioritization is key.
“Be present,” he said. “I focus entirely on the environment that I’m in and the people that I’m around. When I’m at home, I put the phone up and turn the work email notifications off.”
Crosby is known as the Rita’s guy to his daughter’s classmates at preschool. He said his daughter was very excited when Rita’s opened. When asked if he leverages those awesome treats, he answered like a parent trying to motivate his kid.
“And if you’re wondering if I bribe her with Italian Ice and custard… yes,” he said. “Yes, I do.”