By Christopher Gillett
West Coast Chill, the company behind the Chill-Can, owes the Youngstown State University Athletic Department approximately $185,000 after it fell behind on a sponsorship.
West Coast Chill is a subsidiary of Joseph Company International, which is based in Irvine, California. The company was founded by Mitchell Joseph, a former YSU student who graduated in 1969. The company began working with the city of Youngstown around 2015. The company was supposed to sell a product called the Chill-Can, a self-cooling beverage can.
Alongside setting up a financial and business relationship with Youngstown, West Coast Chill began a working relationship with YSU, specifically the Athletic Department.
The department began a sponsorship agreement with West Coast Chill, July 1, 2015, where they agreed to pay athletics yearly installments. The company consistently kept up with payments over the first few years and has given YSU athletics $115,000.
During the pandemic, West Coast Chill had a harder time paying its installments. Ron Strollo, the executive director of intercollegiate athletics at YSU, explained how the lack of payments affected the athletics program.
“All of our coaches have felt the pressures of doing more with less. The biggest challenge, especially in these last 12 months, is inflation,” Strollo said. “The cost of bus transportation [and] equipment, all that stuff has gone up dramatically. So our abilities get trimmed there. We don’t have more resources, but we’ve got to figure out how to do more with less.”
Before the partnership officially began, Joseph brought Johnny Bench, a former baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds to YSU. Joseph invited Bench to a fundraiser breakfast and auction for the Youngstown State baseball team which was held in January 2015.
Joseph recently fundraised for a YSU athletics banquet Nov. 8 and has supplied auction items for past fundraisers for YSU athletics. Joseph also donated one of his drink products, “Student Athlete,” to the Athletic Department for YSU athletes.
Despite the owed payments, Strollo said he trusts the money will come and is not interested in pursuing legal action.
“We haven’t got to that point. Obviously, [I] hope we don’t have to get to that point,” Strollo said. “We’ve been in conversations with him. Obviously, I think COVID has affected his business and some other things. We have not set any dates or deadlines or have done any sort. So, we’re trying to work with him and he’s trying to do the best he can.”
YSU is currently uninvolved in any court case with Joseph Company International or West Coast Chill. The YSU Office of the General Counsel declined to comment on the situation.
The city of Youngstown has been to court with Joseph Company International. The city has been trying to recover $1.5 million it had granted to West Coast Chill to set up a Chill-Can plant in the city and hire employees.
In September, the city magistrate ordered Chill-Can to refund the $1.5 million grant. According to WKBN, the Mahoning County Common Pleas court agreed, overruling Chill-Can’s appeal Nov. 21.