Cold cocktails in Columbia

Pictured are Fire & Ice owners Mike Pace and Ashley Schank.

A new bar waddled its way into downtown Columbia earlier this holiday season, offering specialty cocktails with a hot and cold twist.

Fire & Ice is the creation of Waterloo couple Ashley Schank and Mike Pace, and it serves as their second foray into the bar business just this year.

Schank, originally from Belleville, has called Monroe County home for 10 years now and has substantial business experience with several other ventures – namely a commercial cleaning company active for over 10 years and an online boutique.

Pace is originally from Granite City but said he’s moved around a lot over the years. Previously, he spent eight years in the Army National Guard where he learned about IT and cybersecurity which has since become his career as he works as a security consultant.

With a fair amount of business experience between them, the couple were looking to get into the bar industry but wanted to dip their toes into the water rather than just dive in.

They began their venture into the industry just this year as they purchased Sullivan’s in Belleville, a turnkey establishment that’s changed hands many times over its long history.

“Opening two bars in one year has been a little chaotic,” Schank said. “I think we’re more involved here than Sullivan’s, one because we’re closer. Sullivan’s… we have a manager out there already, and it’s really well-established… I know the business side of things, but we didn’t know the actual bar industry, so we bought an already established bar just to get hands-on with how to run a bar.”

Shortly after, as they’d been on the lookout for available property closer to home for a while, they signed a lease for the Fire & Ice location along Main Street in August, prepping the bar for its Nov. 18 opening.

Schank and Pace explained how they became interested in the concept of a cold cocktail lounge from their own experience with other establishments.

“We traveled, and every place that we went, whether it was Savanna, Georgia, Vegas or even here in St. Louis, there’s these different frozen cocktail bars, and we just really love that idea,” Schank said.

They touched on what they feel are some of the main draws, noting how it can be easier to bring on staff as they don’t have to be exceptionally versed in a wide array of cocktail preparations. Instead, a great deal of focus is placed on simply developing the drink ideas.

The couple noted, however, that the bar still serves some handcrafted cocktails. Additionally, though a lot of emphasis is placed on their frozen drinks – rotating in availability about every two months – Fire & Ice also offers a number of hot items as well.

The overall uniqueness of the concept compared to a typical bar, they said, is also a major benefit.

“They’re really good,” Pace said. “They’re niche. It’s something that’s more special than just a regular tavern. To be honest, it adds a value to a community to have more niche kinda things like this rather than just a catch-all spot.”

Schank and Pace also discussed their overall vision and aesthetic for Fire & Ice, down to their branding which features an ampersand designed to look like a penguin – they credited the design to Alex Tsigolaroff with The Poser Company.

As far as the actual bar, they explained that they were hoping to open a location that was somewhat fancy but still welcoming.

“I would say our key is just a casual atmosphere. A little more upscale but not too much so,” Pace said, with Schank adding, “We were trying to find that right middle-of-the-road of, yes, being an upscale lounge, but we still wanted to be casual and comfortable and approachable.”

In the past few weeks Fire & Ice has been open, Schank and Pace say its gotten a decent reception within the community.

They noted that weekends, naturally, have been busier for them, and they suspect that business will pick up during the summer months when people are particularly eager for a frozen drink.

“I would say the response was really good,” Schank said. “Everybody that has come in here is so kind. Very honest in their opinions, so that was really nice. They love the space. They love what we’ve brought to Columbia. We’ve heard some customers say, ‘We want a nightlife like Waterloo,’ and this is kind of getting them to that point of having that nightlife.”

As far as hopes for the future, the couple expressed their desire to really find a place in the community.

On top of their interest in helping Columbia’s nightlife grow, they said they were looking to reach out to a number of other vendors in the community to source locally brewed drinks as well as coffee for their cocktails.

“We’re not here to make a quick buck,” Pace said. “We’re here to be here for a long time, establish a brand and invest in the space in the area.”

Fire & Ice is currently open at 123 S. Main St. in Columbia, which is the former home of Who Dat’s  Southern Food. For more information, visit the Fire & Ice Facebook page.

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Andrew Unverferth

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