DAVIDSON – Having Jerry Greenfield be a part of the Davidson Ben & Jerry’s 20th birthday is the proverbial cherry on top of Manager Karen Toney’s celebratory sundae.
Greenfield, the original co-founder of the ice cream store will sign autographs, take photos and scoop ice cream 1 to 2 p.m. March 30
“I’ve been trying to get him to come and this makes it so special,” Toney said. “People sometimes forget that Ben and Jerry are two actual people. They aren’t really part of the company anymore, but Jerry likes to come to shop openings and celebrations.”
The official 20th birthday was Nov. 17, 2013, but Toney said she wants to make it last all year. Plus it’s a reminder to Greenfield how far the company has come from the single scoop shop in a renovated gas station in Vermont in 1978 to having 240 scoop shops and products in stores internationally.
“We aren’t just selling ice cream,” she said, acknowledging that their product is available at grocery stores. “We sell the experience. There’s a lot we can offer that you get – a grocery store pint can’t talk to you. We’re the face of Ben and Jerry’s. You can taste the flavors you weren’t sure you would like and we do the work for you.”
Toney, who began working at the Davidson store as a part-time scooper when it first opened, has contacted more than 100 former staff members for a pre-event party with Greenfield. In the 20 years, Toney estimated about 200 employees have come through, starting at age 16 and working through college.
Along with the employees, Toney has seen Davidson change – CVS was built, a gas station taken away and a historic home moved, etc. She described it as having been a small town that was just a dot on the lake with no access and a 1,500-student affluent liberal arts college.
But Ben & Jerry’s has been a staple like several downtown businesses.
The store’s services have also expanded, selling at college basketball and football games and offering birthday parties and catering.
What makes Davidson’s shop different is that it’s geared toward the community. Some stores are more tourist locations; others are strictly for colleges. But Toney said the scoop shop’s emphasis is on all town residents.
Regulars have included people coming after church Wednesdays and Sundays, couples who come for a date or a gathering on a Friday night, students coming in after school or getting a burst of sugar before going to dance class.
Some other store community initiatives are the Halloween costume swap, benefit nights, the blood drive give a pint get a pint program, food drives and the coveted Free Cone Day, coming up on April 8.
Seeing the joy on people’s faces and talking to everyone she meets is why Toney doesn’t regret leaving her job as a veterinary technician to work full-time at Ben & Jerry’s.
“I don’t want to work at any other Ben & Jerry’s,” she said. “Just the one in Davidson.”
Popular ice cream The Davidson Ben and Jerry’s store goes through 50,700 pounds of ice cream each year thanks to its wide variety. Flavor gurus and food scientists, are tasked with letting their imagination go wild to establish new ice cream flavors using natural ingredients. Here are some of the most popular flavors over the years, according to Davidson Ben & Jerry’s Manager Karen Toney: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Phish Food, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Mint Chocolate Chunk and New York Super Fudge Chunk.