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Huntington man owns Ice House among other local businesses

Nov. 27, 2012 @ 07:02 AM

Huntingon man owns Ice House among other local businesses

HUNTINGTON -- Hunter Dan Darnulc pulls up to the Ice House America self-serve ice machine on U.S. 60 and gets himself a 20-pound bag for $2. It's his second stop for ice. He's decided after seeing the price at the first stop that he can just drive down the street and save a little.

Meanwhile, Huntington resident Angela Bryson is looking forward to helping her son, Vijay Patnaik, move into his first home, which is in Island Estates in East Pea Ridge. Patnaik has autism, and so it's a big transition.

"I chose Island Estates because of the safety of the community. I thought it would be safe for my son, who (needs) 24-hour staffing," Bryson says. "When I walked in, it was a perfect match for what I was looking for my son."

Though in two entirely different situations, both Darnulc and Bryson have benefited from the entrepreneurial spirit of the same man -- Scott Hutchison of Huntington.

Hutchison has his hand in too many businesses to list, but they include Ice House America, Five Star Car Wash and other car washes, property development such as Island Estates, Express Automotive auto service, and Express Used Cars, which does financing on used cars for consumers who don't want to worry about getting a loan. Many of the businesses have at least two locations in the area.

Also under the umbrella of Scott Hutchison Enterprises Inc. is The Pottery Place, which has locations in Huntington, Ashland and Beckley and is soon to open in Charleston. Its day-to-day operations are handled by his wife, Laya Hutchison, who also has long been CPA for Scott Hutchison Enterprises, otherwise known as SHE Inc.

For many years, they've made a great team, Scott Hutchison said, praising his wife's efforts in both business and family matters. Every day, he's been out in the field, dressed in jeans and making sure everything is running smoothly, and she's been in the office crunching numbers, he said.

"I come home, and she has good news or bad news," said Hutchison, who met Laya in church and with whom he has four children, middle school-aged through college-aged. "She's also raised our kids, and they're great kids."

Of his many business ventures, the ice business is one of the most recent. He got the idea when he was out of town and saw an Ice House America hut, a business that almost runs itself, he said. The huts hold 6,000 pounds of ice, self contained. It sells $2 bags of ice and 25-cent gallons of water.

"A lot of construction guys and campers come up here and get filtered water," he said. "It's good, clean, filtered ice. It's not melted together so that you have to break it."

The huts were also extremely popular after the derecho this past summer.

He was out of town that Friday night, but in the following days, there were lines of people, 30 to 40 deep, he said.

"We were selling about 600 bags a day," he said.

Hutchison bought the rights to sell the franchise in the state of West Virginia and in parts of Ohio and Kentucky. Locally, there are Ice House America huts across from Eastern Heights on U.S. 60, in Barboursville, in Lavalette, and along Hal Greer Boulevard. He's looking for franchisees for other cities.

The self-serve ice huts go hand-in-hand with another arm of his business, self-serve car washes, one of which is located right next to the Ice House America on U.S. 60. Just a jaunt up the street is Five Start Car Wash, into which Hutchison recently invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrades. It offers everything from a $5 basic outer wash to a $20 package, which includes waxing, tire shine, vacuuming and a "mini detailing," Hutchison said.

SHE Inc. works to cross-market car wash services with his new Express Auto Service, which is located off Hal Greer and 7th Avenue. It services the vehicles sold by Express Used Cars and will do state inspections and other basic auto service.

When it comes to real estate, Hutchison has had success with Island Estates, which is a community of about 150 homes at East Pea Ridge. With very little yard space and a handful of models to choose from, the homes have been popular among retirees, professionals and first-time homebuyers.

Bryson likes that there is a pool and a community building there.

"I liked the area -- it was friendly," she said. "I like the community building there because my son can have birthday parties and parties with his friends. It was as perfect a match as I could possibly do. ... Scott has been wonderful and has worked with us closely. ... He was very understanding that my son had special needs and he helped me. That, in a sense, helped us with that transition."

With 150 homes complete and 10 more to build, it's almost complete, which is good news after some slow years early in the recession, Hutchison said.

His experience in business got under way in the 1980s, when he started with Convenient Mini Storage, a company that he later sold to a large national company.

Hutchison gives credit to Geoff Sheils and Bob Beamer at First Sentry Bank, who have stood by him since the beginning.

Hutchison is a good investment, Sheils said.

"When you get to know Scott, you first learn that he is a genuine, honorable man deeply devoted to his faith and family," Sheils said. "Combine that with his endless energy, his entrepreneurial drive, and his passion to succeed, you soon realize there is nothing that could stop him from attaining his goals. Success doesn't come by accident. Scott Hutchison makes it happen, and it is a testament to his hard work and perseverance.

"I think he would tell you that his best achievement in life was to convince his wife, Laya, to marry him," Sheils continued. "Together, they are not only a tremendous business team that has been successful in varying types of businesses in varying types of industries, but they are also a tremendous team at home as they have raised a wonderful family as well."