HUNTERSVILLE – Andrea Palmer moved to Huntersville from Long Island, N.Y., seven years ago. Since then, Palmer witnessed the town add businesses and restaurants all around her.
“I started to think, ‘What is this area missing?’” she said. “I felt like we needed an upscale bar where people could go to get away.”
Enter ICE Martini Bar, which Palmer opened in late July with business partner Crit Harrison.
The bar – located off Birkdale Crossing Drive, near the entrance to Birkdale Village – was successful from the time it opened, Palmer said. High-end martinis made in-house, most of which cost in the $9-$11 range, dominate the menu. ICE also has North Carolina-made craft beers, local wines and a light food menu.
Palmer said customers have raved about ICE’s drink menu, which includes a S’moretini complete with a roasted marshmallow inside the martini glass. Another favorite is the “Fire and Ice shot,” a shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey in a shot glass made of ice.
But there’s more to the bar than its offerings.
“It’s all about presentation,” Palmer said. “We’re targeting the older clientele. That’s not to say people in their early 20’s don’t come in here, because they do, but we don’t have live music or a DJ. There’s only one TV. We’re not trying to be a sports bar.”
ICE’s “cool” theme permeates throughout the bar, which itself is illuminated and designed to look as if it’s made of ice.
Palmer got the idea to develop an upscale bar in Huntersville after working in the restaurant industry since she was 14 years old. She examined sites around the lake and the north Charlotte area to find the perfect place to open ICE. As it turns out, the best spot was in Huntersville.
“We spent two years planning to do this,” she said. “We spent six months surveying a 25-30-mile radius. Where we are, we have no direct or indirect competitors, but I’ve had people come in and ask me about our design, layout, even take pictures of our menu. It’s a good business plan.”
And one on which Palmer prides herself. She hopes to expand ICE to three locations within five years, with one location likely to be in the Charlotte area. She modeled the bar after what patrons might find in Miami, Las Vegas or New York.
It’s worked in Huntersville, too, Harrison said.
“We’ve done really well so far,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of customers just by word-of-mouth. You’ve got to have good drinks, good presentation and good service for people to consistently recommend you. You can’t get what we provide anywhere in the Lake Norman area.”
The relaxed, quieter atmosphere ICE aims to bring – coupled with its more upscale clientele – definitely sets it apart, according to Palmer. Still, other factors come into play.
“We use mixologists instead of bartenders,” she said. “We’re very into the farm-to-cocktail concept of using fresh fruit in our drinks. We don’t even use processed or made-elsewhere sour mix.”
Palmer hopes the business continues to grow as more customers enjoy the bar’s unique experience.
“We’ve been very pleased,” she said. “It’s all been very positive.”