February 12, 2007

Baskin & Robbins

And the men behind the brand are...
Burton Baskin & Irvine Robbins

Irvine Robbins grew up on his father’s dairy farm outside Tacoma, Washington. He helped process and sell the milk, ice cream and other products. When it came time to count up the profits each month Irvine saw that the real profits were not coming in selling to groceries and drugstores but from sales made from the family’s little store in a Tacoma alley known as “Court C.”

With the end of World War II Robbins remembered his lessons from the farm and set up his own ice cream shop. Robbins, then 27, opened the Snowbird ice cream store in Glendale, California. Down the road in Pasadena his brother-in-law Burton Baskin started another store in 1946. The goal was to make $75 a week and have some fun.

The early years forged the business philosophy that would weld into Baskin-Robbins when the two became partners shortly thereafter:
sell nothing but ice cream and offer a vast array of fun-to-choose flavors. Baskin-Robbins sold nothing but ice cream and sold it only in their shops.
And they sold it even in the winter.

Soon there were eight stores and sales were booming but the partners had no money. They decided to sell the stores to the managers; the company would supply the ice cream and merchandising ideas. The formula worked. Baskin and Robbins collected the payments and concentrated on the ice cream.

Baskin and Robbins inaugurated a rotating stable of 31 flavors, one for each day of the month. They had hundreds of exotic flavors to choose from.
The names were as appealing as the flavors. When the Dodgers arrived in Los Angeles from Brooklyn in 1958 they were welcomed by baseball-nut ice cream: raspberries (for “razzing” the umpires) and cashews (for peanuts in the bleachers) mixed into vanilla (the all-time winning flavor). Lunar cheesecake ice cream commemorated the first moon landing in 1969.

All flavors were subject to a test panel. Not all flavors survived the scrutiny. Goody Goody Gumdrop - a seemingly ideal Baskin-Robbins fun combination of gum drops and ice cream - was withdrawn because of its tiny tooth-threatening frozen gumdrops. Ketchup ice cream and lox and bagels were allowed to quietly melt in the lab.

In 1967 Baskin and Robbins sold their company for $20,000,000.
Burton Baskin died suddenly only six months later but Robbins carried on with the business. When Baskin-Robbins’s 31 Flavors celebrated its 31st birthday in 1976 the 1600 stores had a flavorful roster of over 500 flavors to choose from.


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