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11 Chock-Full Facts About Cold Stone Creamery

Whether you like it, love it, or gotta have it, Cold Stone Creamery and their candy-filled, extra rich ice cream creations have been the pinnacle of summertime decadence since the first store opened in Tempe, Ariz. in 1988.

1. THEY SELL “SUPERPREMIUM ICE CREAM.”

That flattering adjective isn’t just some self-awarded praise. The label is an industry designation that refers to ice cream with 12-14 percent butterfat and relatively low “overrun”—the amount of extra air that’s pumped into it. This is what gives Cold Stone’s flavors their super creamy feel, an intentional choice by founders Donald and Susan Sutherland, who wanted something between flavorful hard-packed and smooth soft-serve.

2. ALL OF THEIR ICE CREAM IS MADE ON SITE.

All of their innovative flavors are made daily on premise, and the granite slab that the various candies, nuts, and fruits are mixed in on is chilled to 16 degrees.

3. COLD STONE DIDN’T INVENT THE MIX-IN.

But then again, neither did competitors Maggie Moo's or Marble Slab. That honor goes to Steve Herrell, who opened his Boston ice cream parlor Steve's Ice Cream in 1973—pioneering superpremium ice creams and the idea of “smooshing-in.” Cold Stone is happy to give Herrell credit for the innovative idea—although they changed the name of the concept to "mix-ins" for distinction—but they think they can do it better.

"Steve was the father of mix-ins," Meredith Bryan, co-owner of the Cold Stone in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston and the chain's area developer, told Boston.com in 2004. "We love Steve. We worship him. But this is taking it to a whole new level. People have definitely never seen this before, even people who have been to Steve's before."

4. THE COMPANY GREW SUPER QUICKLY.

It landed at No. 94 on Entrepreneur magazine’s "101 Fastest-Growing Franchises in America” in 2000 with 100 stores in over 16 states. By 2005, Cold Stone had jumped to 12th place on the list.

5. THEY ONCE SERVED CRICKETS.

In an attempt to capitalize on the nation’s Survivor obsession, the ice cream chain launched a cricket campaign in 2001. Chocolate-covered crickets were available for purchase at all then-142 locations of Cold Stone throughout the country. Patrons who ate the insects were given free ice cream on their next visit or the chance to be entered into a raffle for a trip to the Australian site where the reality show was filmed.

"They look like real crickets, so it's tough to get past that, but once you pop them in your mouth, they taste kind of like chocolate-covered potato chips," Brian Curin, Cold Stone's director of marketing at the time, said.

6. YOU CAN GET JELLY BELLY BEANS FLAVORED LIKE COLD STONE FAVORITES.

The two sweet brands partnered in 2008 and still today you can purchase jelly beans flavored like Birthday Cake Remix, Apple Pie a la Cold Stone, Chocolate Devotion, and a few others.

7. COLD STONE MADE NON-MELTING ICE CREAM ONCE.

In 2009, Cold Stone partnered with JELL-O to produce a limited-edition line of pudding-flavored ice creams: Chocolate, Butterscotch, Vanilla, and Banana. The special scoops had a strange, slightly unintentional feature: they never really melted. The flavors were made with actual JELL-O mix and although served chilled as an ice cream, if they were allowed to sit out at room temperature they melted not into a liquid but a pudding.

8. THE MILKSHAKES ARE REALLY, REALLY DECADENT.

How decadent? Try, award-winning—sort of. For two years in a row (2010 and 2011), Cold Stone’s PB&C milkshake—made with chocolate ice cream, milk, and peanut butter—earned the top spot on Men's Health "20 Worst Drinks in America" list. The 24-oz shake clocks in at 2,010 calories, 131 grams of fat (68 grams saturated), and 153 grams of sugar. But that’s not stopping devotees. "I don't care. I'd drink it without difficulty,” the Telegraph quoted one fan of the shake as saying. “I'd probably have it once a week."

9. THERE’S A COLD STONE VIDEO GAME.

It’s called Cold Stone Creamery: Scoop It Up and it’s available for purchase for the Wii. The game involves running an ice cream shop, of course, and along the way you can unlock new flavors, cones and mix-ins.

10. COLD STONE’S FORMER CEO IS NOW THE GOVERNOR OF ARIZONA.

In 2014, Doug Ducey was elected governor of Arizona. Although he had served as the state's treasurer since 2011, the Republican didn’t highlight that aspect of his career during his campaign. Instead, he focused on his time as CEO at Cold Stone Creamery from 1995 until the company was sold to Kahala in 2007. His campaign ads dubbed him "the conservative ice-cream guy,” and at one forum he implored voters to "look at me and evaluate me from your personal experience at Cold Stone Creamery.”

Around the time he got elected, the state capitol started stocking Cold Stone Creamery items in their freezer—but a spokeswoman claimed the connection was purely coincidental.

11. SERVERS COMPETE TO BE THE MOST ENTERTAINING.

If you’ve been to a Cold Stone location you know your candy-filled ice cream treat often comes with a side of singing—servers are instructed to make up silly songs whenever they receive tips. But the entertainment factor doesn’t stop there. Along with learning the basics of serving up scoops, new employees are coached on different techniques for personalizing the service—from singing and dancing to juggling. The company highlights these unique talents at an annual competition for the most entertaining team of ice-cream servers. We think the Dubai crew seen above has a lock on 2015.

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A.C. Gilbert, the Toymaker Who (Actually) Saved Christmas 
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Alfred Carlton Gilbert was told he had 15 minutes to convince the United States government not to cancel Christmas.

For hours, he paced the outer hall, awaiting his turn before the Council of National Defense. With him were the tools of his trade: toy submarines, air rifles, and colorful picture books. As government personnel walked by, Gilbert, bashful about his cache of kid things, tried hiding them behind a leather satchel.

Finally, his name was called. It was 1918, the U.S. was embroiled in World War I, and the Council had made an open issue about their deliberation over whether to halt all production of toys indefinitely, turning factories into ammunition centers and even discouraging giving or receiving gifts that holiday season. Instead of toys, they argued, citizens should be spending money on war bonds. Playthings had become inconsequential.

Frantic toymakers persuaded Gilbert, founder of the A.C. Gilbert Company and creator of the popular Erector construction sets, to speak on their behalf. Toys in hand, he faced his own personal firing squad of military generals, policy advisors, and the Secretary of War.

Gilbert held up an air rifle and began to talk. What he’d say next would determine the fate of the entire toy industry.

Even if he had never had to testify on behalf of Christmas toys, A.C. Gilbert would still be remembered for living a remarkable life. Born in Oregon in 1884, Gilbert excelled at athletics, once holding the world record for consecutive chin-ups (39) and earning an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault during the 1908 Games. In 1909, he graduated from Yale School of Medicine with designs on remaining in sports as a health advisor.

But medicine wasn’t where Gilbert found his passion. A lifelong performer of magic, he set his sights on opening a business selling illusionist kits. The Mysto Manufacturing Company didn’t last long, but it proved to Gilbert that he had what it took to own and operate a small shingle. In 1916, three years after introducing the Erector sets, he renamed Mysto the A.C. Gilbert Company.

Erector was a big hit in the burgeoning American toy market, which had typically been fueled by imported toys from Germany. Kids could take the steel beams and make scaffolding, bridges, and other small-development projects. With the toy flying off shelves, Gilbert’s factory in New Haven, Connecticut grew so prosperous that he could afford to offer his employees benefits that were uncommon at the time, like maternity leave and partial medical insurance.

Gilbert’s reputation for being fair and level-headed led the growing toy industry to elect him their president for the newly created Toy Manufacturers of America, an assignment he readily accepted. But almost immediately, his position became something other than ceremonial: His peers began to grow concerned about the country’s involvement in the war and the growing belief that toys were a dispensable effort.

President Woodrow Wilson had appointed a Council of National Defense to debate these kinds of matters. The men were so preoccupied with the consequences of the U.S. marching into a European conflict that something as trivial as a pull-string toy or chemistry set seemed almost insulting to contemplate. Several toy companies agreed to convert to munitions factories, as did Gilbert. But when the Council began discussing a blanket prohibition on toymaking and even gift-giving, Gilbert was given an opportunity to defend his industry.

Before Gilbert was allowed into the Council’s chambers, a Naval guard inspected each toy for any sign of sabotage. Satisfied, he allowed Gilbert in. Among the officials sitting opposite him were Secretary of War Newton Baker and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

“The greatest influences in the life of a boy are his toys,” Gilbert said. “Yet through the toys American manufacturers are turning out, he gets both fun and an education. The American boy is a genuine boy and wants genuine toys."

He drew an air rifle, showing the committee members how a child wielding less-than-lethal weapons could make for a better marksman when he was old enough to become a soldier. He insisted construction toys—like the A.C. Gilbert Erector Set—fostered creative thinking. He told the men that toys provided a valuable escape from the horror stories coming out of combat.

Armed with play objects, a boy’s life could be directed toward “construction, not destruction,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert then laid out his toys for the board to examine. Secretary Daniels grew absorbed with a toy submarine, marveling at the detail and asking Gilbert if it could be bought anywhere in the country. Other officials examined children’s books; one began pushing a train around the table.

The word didn’t come immediately, but the expressions on the faces of the officials told the story: Gilbert had won them over. There would be no toy or gift embargo that year.

Naturally, Gilbert still devoted his work floors to the production efforts for both the first and second world wars. By the 1950s, the A.C. Gilbert Company was dominating the toy business with products that demanded kids be engaged and attentive. Notoriously, he issued a U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, which came complete with four types of uranium ore. “Completely safe and harmless!” the box promised. A Geiger counter was included. At $50 each, Gilbert lost money on it, though his decision to produce it would earn him a certain infamy in toy circles.

“It was not suitable for the same age groups as our simpler chemistry and microscope sets, for instance,” he once said, “and you could not manufacture such a thing as a beginner’s atomic energy lab.”

Gilbert’s company reached an astounding $20 million in sales in 1953. By the mid-1960s, just a few years after Gilbert's death in 1961, it was gone, driven out of business by the apathy of new investors. No one, it seemed, had quite the same passion for play as Gilbert, who had spent over half a century providing fun and educational fare that kids were ecstatic to see under their trees.

When news of the Council’s 1918 decision reached the media, The Boston Globe's front page copy summed up Gilbert’s contribution perfectly: “The Man Who Saved Christmas.”

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Ho, No: Christmas Trees Will Be Expensive and Scarce This Year
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The annual tradition of picking out the healthiest, densest, biggest tree that you can tie to your car’s roof and stuff in your living room won’t be quite the same this year. According to The New York Times, Christmas trees will be scarce in some parts of the country and markedly more expensive overall.

The reason? Not Krampus, Belsnickel, or Scrooge, but something even more miserly: the American economy. The current situation has roots in 2008, when families were buying fewer trees due to the recession. Because more trees stayed in the ground, tree farms planted fewer seeds that year. And since firs grow in cycles of 8 to 10 years, we’re now arriving at a point where that diminished supply is beginning to impact the tree industry.

New York Times reporter Tiffany Hsu reports that 2017’s healthier holiday spending habits are set to drive up the price of trees as consumers vie for the choicest cuts on the market. In 2008, trees were just under $40 on average. Now, they’re $75 or more.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get a nice tree at a decent price—just that some farms will run out of prime selections more quickly and you might have to settle for something a little less impressive than in years past. Tree industry experts also caution that the shortages could last through 2025.

[h/t New York Times]

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