Walking on Thin Ice and Still Making It

The story about problem-solving in business, even a failed one, which can be revived and leave its mark on history for many decades.

Do you remember when pagers were all the rage, and then within just a few years dim phones brought them to extinction? So this story is about what to do when the rapid tide of technology is driving you out of business?

The Zamboni brothers from California faced a similar problem. This story started In 1927 when they were delivering ice blocks to shops selling fruit and dairy produce. Things were going great seeing as ice was in high demand in California. In the mid-30s, however, cheap refrigerators appeared and shops didn’t need iceblocks anymore. This could have been the end of their business story, but the Zamboni brothers decided to use their expertise wisely. They opened Iceland – the largest skating rink in the country. 

Iceland became extremely popular and attracted many visitors. It meant, though, that the ice needed to be resurfaced very often. It would take at least 90 minutes to resurface the rink. They had to smoothen the surface, hose down chipped ice, drain away from the dirty water and spray on clean water. And only after this lengthy process the refrigerating compressor was switched on. Here is where our storytelling starts. 

To speed up this process and increase profit, Frank Zamboni started developing a machine that would smooth out the ice, remove the shavings and apply water. This machinery came to life in 1949, slashing this whole rigmarole down to 10 minutes.

Within a few years, this revolutionary equipment started appearing at all NHL teams and America’s figure skating leagues. The Zamboni brothers dedicated themselves to developing what they called ice resurfacers. 

Today, however, they are known as Zamboni, regardless of the manufacturer.

Amazing how passion, expertise and thinking out of the box can change the world and provide us with great storytelling to share around. Today you wouldn’t impress anyone with a resurfacer, but 70 years back it must have sounded nuts. Thankfully Zamboni didn’t throw in the towel way back when.


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