History of Harman Ice & Cold Storage
Harman Ice began in Johnson City, TN in January of 1915 when C.E. Walker and his brother in law R.E. Harman partnered together to form Walker Ice and Coal Company. At this time the ice business consisted of producing large 300 pound blocks which were cut into chunks and delivered to homes by horse and wagon and used for refrigeration in iceboxes, predecessor of the modern electric refrigerator. In addition to ice manufacturing, the company also delivered coal to homes which was burned for heat during winter.
The company operated as Walker Ice and Coal until January 15, 1935 when at a board of directors meeting, R.E. Harman opted to exercise the “buy” option of a buy/sell agreement between himself and C.E. Walker. The move made Mr. Harman the sole owner of the company at which time he re-named it Harman Ice and Coal Company. Following the buyout, Mr. Harman was joined by his son Estel Harman who assisted him in operating the family business.
R.E. and Estel continued to focus on home delivery and coal until the end of WWII when mass production of the electric refrigerator began. The introduction of the refrigerator eliminated the need for block ice, forcing the father and son to look for other sources of revenue. The pair began experimenting with forcing the 300 pound blocks through a crusher and packaging the “cubes” in paper bags for use at filling stations, grocery stores, and movie theaters. This new form of ice business grew rapidly along with the frozen food and cold storage businesses.
In 1967 the company entered a new era when Harry E. Harman joined his father and grandfather in the family business. Harry continued the process of crushing and packaging block ice until 1981 when he purchased the company’s first two 4.5 ton automatic tube ice makers. As the company grew, Harry continued to add additional ice makers to meet demand. By 1997 the company had a total production capacity of 40 tons per day.
In 1997 Harry’s son Reese joined the company along with his brother, Andy, in 2001. As the company grew, so did the need to produce more ice. In the winter of 2001 the family decided to upgrade the Johnson City facility by installing new ice makers and packaging equipment increasing the plants capacity to 60 tons per day. The following year more production equipment was added bringing the size of the plant to 130 tons per day.
Where We Are Today:
Today, Harman Brothers Ice operates 130 ton ice plants in Johnson City and Knoxville, TN and distribution centers in Spartanburg and Pendleton SC. The plants are capable of producing more than 50,000 packages per day and can store on hand more than 800,000 packages. The Harman Ice market covers all of east Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. The company is still owned and operated by Harry, Reese, and Andy Harman.