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Rita’s water ice debuts a new flavor, plans expansion as its 39th season approaches

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Winter may have been a bust this year, but that doesn’t mean Philadelphia’s not ready for spring — and with it, Rita’s water ice.

The Lower Bucks County-based chain reopened its shops for the season on March 1, but it has some specials squirreled up for the first day of spring, when the shops customarily give out free water ice.

According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, Rita’s will debut a Gummy Bears flavor on March 20. It will be the first new flavor of more to come this season, in addition to a frozen coffee line the company plans to roll out in April.

Besides the new products, Rita’s also plans to expand this year. Though it already has roughly 600 stores in the U.S. and abroad, the company is adding more franchisees, opening in Missouri and further growing its footprint in Illinois, Texas, and Oklahoma. CEO Linda Chadwick told the Business Journal that Rita’s growth is in part thanks to Mid-Atlantic natives moving elsewhere.

“Franchisees that are from this area … have moved down to South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida [and] are really building strong,” Chadwick told the PBJ. “And they’re like, ‘Hey, we need a Rita’s down here.’”

Rita’s was founded in 1984 by former Philadelphia firefighter Bob Tumolo, who named the venture after his wife. The first shop was located at 1227 Bristol Pike in Bensalem, where there’s still a Rita’s today. The company, which has stores in 31 states, has been sold three times since its founding. Though originally called Rita’s Water Ice, at some point along the way, the company’s official name became Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard.

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