Twitter user @CarvelIceCream
Twitter user @CarvelIceCream

12 Sweet Facts About Carvel

Twitter user @CarvelIceCream
Twitter user @CarvelIceCream

There’s a lot to know from the 81-year history of America’s first ice cream franchise.

1. THOMAS CARVEL STARTED HIS ICE CREAM EMPIRE WITH A LOAN FROM HIS FUTURE WIFE.

Watch a reenactment of the early days in this 1955 educational video.

In 1910, Tom Carvel was just 4 years old when he moved to America along with the rest of his family from Greece. As a young man, Carvel tried his hand at a number of odd jobs, including test-driving Studebaker cars. But after he was misdiagnosed with tuberculosis, doctors recommended that Carvel get out of the automotive business and out of New York City. He moved to Westchester, borrowed $15 from his soon-to-be-wife, Agnes, and in 1934, a 26-year-old Carvel started selling ice cream out of a truck.

2. SOFT-SERVE WAS INVENTED WHEN A TRUCK BROKE DOWN.

Carvel’s business almost went bust that first year. On Memorial Day weekend, in Hartsdale, Carvel's truck broke down and the ice cream started to melt. Carvel hurried to sell what he could and quickly found that heat-softened ice cream was a hit. He called the product “soft-serve” and sold it all summer right out of the broken down truck in a pottery store parking lot. It turned out that customers loved the stationary stand and the slightly softened ice cream; Carvel earned $3500 (more than $60,000 in today’s money).

3. CARVEL’S SOFT-SERVE MACHINE WAS THE FIRST OF MANY PATENTS.

Following that fortuitous breakdown in 1934 (for what it’s worth: Dairy Queen disputes the origin story of soft-serve), Carvel put his mechanical experience to use to build a machine that churned soft-serve—it was the first of more than 300 patents, copyrights, and trademarks that Carvel would acquire during his long career. His original intent was just to sell the machines to other ice cream shops, but when they proved too tricky to operate without Carvel’s guidance, he had no choice but to start hiring people himself and launch the Carvel Corporation in 1947, making him the self-proclaimed "father of franchising" in America.

4. CARVEL WAS AN INNOVATOR MANY TIMES OVER.

In addition to soft-serve, among the many firsts Tom Carvel was responsible for were round ice cream sandwiches, and he was one of the first to offer “buy one get one free” promotions.

5. AT LEAST ONE OF THE SIGNATURE CAKES BECAME A CULTURAL ICON.

In the '70s, Carvel debuted a line of slight bizarre-looking cakes that included Fudgie the Whale, Hug-Me Bear, and Cookie Puss. Although Fudgie the Whale—advertised as a Father’s Day treat—is still the best seller today and they all became part of the cultural lexicon, Cookie Puss had particularly wide-ranging impact. The Carvel-endorsed origin story claimed that the Cookie Puss was an alien who originally went by the name Celestial Person (or “CP”) but that’s likely got nothing to do with why the cake was a popular reference on The Howard Stern Show or its titular role in the Beastie Boys’ debut single.

6. TOM CARVEL’S UNREHEARSED ADS HELPED PUT THE COMPANY ON THE MAP.

Advertising experts cite Tom Carvel as one of the first executives to voice his own ads on radio and television. "I can't find anyone cheaper than me," Carvel is reported to have said of casting himself. His gravelly voice and imperfect diction was instantly notable and memorable. A 1979 New York Times story put him "on the enemies list of every elocution teacher who ever watched him transform a television commercial to a 60-second comedy of syntactical errors." But the unscripted, unedited spots charmed the public.

"The professionals ridicule my commercials, but who cares?" Carvel told the Times in 1985. "You can have a six-foot-tall, handsome announcer with a perfect voice, perfect diction, perfect grammar. But very few ice-cream buyers look like that. Our commercials are for the people who look like us, talk like us and sound like us."

7. FOLLOWING THOMAS CARVEL’S DEATH, THE COMPANY FORTUNE WAS MIRED IN MYSTERY AND CONTROVERSY.

Just days before he died in 1990, 84-year-old Thomas Carvel told a close associate that he had begun to worry that Mildred Arcadipane, his secretary and confidant of 38 years, and Robert Davis, his longtime lawyer, were scheming against him. Despite their years of service, Carvel planned to relieve them of their considerable power within the company. He died of a heart attack before he had the chance to do so. In the decades since his death, Carvel’s fears have been proven well-founded. Arcadipane and Davis fought bitterly for years against Carvel’s widow Agnes and his niece Pamela over the $67 million estate—and the fighting wasn’t always fair. While Agnes attended her late husband’s wake, Davis and a hired locksmith broke into the couple’s home to search for a will, and in 2007, Pamela—the sole surviving member of the feud—requested that her uncle’s body be exhumed for an additional autopsy in an effort to prove he’d been murdered. That request was denied, and later an arrest warrant was issued for Pamela Carvel—who had filed for bankruptcy—for civil contempt.

8. THE ORIGINAL CARVEL LOCATION LASTED OVER 70 YEARS.

Two years after that fateful breakdown in Hartsdale, N.Y., Thomas Carvel bought a permanent ice cream shop on the very same street. The store, 25 miles north of Manhattan, served up sweet treats for over seven decades. It was also the site of the first ice cream supermarket in 1956. But rising rents and taxes took a toll and in October 2008, the original Carvel closed for good.

9. ASPIRING FRANCHISEES LEARN THE ROPES DURING AN INTENSIVE COURSE AT CARVEL COLLEGE.

Thomas Carvel was a notoriously strict CEO during his lifetime (so much so that he faced legal action from franchisees who accused him of violating Federal Trade Commission regulations—Carvel ultimately won the case at the Supreme Court level). To keep standards high and consistent, aspiring franchisees attended a 14-day training program (now just 10 days) at the Carvel College of Ice Cream Knowledge (or, Sundae School), where Mr. Carvel himself gave the commencement speech. The school launched in 1949, and Carvel later purchased a motel in Yonkers, N.Y. to serve as the Carvel Inn, training school, and production studio for their in-house commercials.

10. THE COMPANY HAS A COUPLE WORLD RECORDS.

Getty Images

In 2002, the then-68-year-old company set the Guinness World Record for the largest ice cream pyramid, live on the CBS Early Show. Over the course of 58 minutes, 28 Carvel employees stacked 3894 scoops of Carvel's creamy vanilla ice cream 53 inches high in 22 layers. The final pyramid weighed in at 1005 pounds and 778,800 calories.

Two years later, the company celebrated its 70th anniversary with a record-setting world’s largest ice cream cake. The 2096-pound, 19x9-foot cake took 75 minutes and 54 people to assemble.

11. THERE WAS A VERY SHORT-LIVED CARVEL HAMBURGER FRANCHISE.

Hubie’s, or H-burger, was trademarked by Carvel in 1960 but the home of the 15-cent hamburger—which also featured whole barbeque chicken—failed to take off. It seems Tom Carvel’s passion was never really burgers—he had previously turned down the chance to get involved with McDonald’s when it was just starting out, stating that he felt ice cream and burgers don’t really go together.

12. YOU CAN MAKE THE "CRUNCHIES" AT HOME.

Happy Tuesday to you...Happy Tuesday to you…#CelebrateEverything

Posted by Carvel Ice Cream on Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A big part of what makes Carvel ice cream cakes so reliably delicious is that crumbly cookie layer between the two flavors. Dedicated fans around the Internet (with a little help from Food Network Magazine) found out that the company uses crumbled flying saucer cookies (from their ice cream sandwiches) mixed with their in-house chocolate dip that hardens. But you can make a pretty good duplicate at home using chocolate Nabisco wafers or Oreo crumbs mixed with Smucker's Magic Shell.

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Why a Readily Available Used Paperback Is Selling for Thousands of Dollars on Amazon
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At first glance, getting ahold of a copy of One Snowy Knight, a historical romance novel by Deborah MacGillivray, isn't hard at all. You can get the book, which originally came out in 2009, for a few bucks on Amazon. And yet according to one seller, a used copy of the book is worth more than $2600. Why? As The New York Times reports, this price disparity has more to do with the marketing techniques of Amazon's third-party sellers than it does the market value of the book.

As of June 5, a copy of One Snowy Knight was listed by a third-party seller on Amazon for $2630.52. By the time the Times wrote about it on July 15, the price had jumped to $2800. That listing has since disappeared, but a seller called Supersonic Truck still has a used copy available for $1558.33 (plus shipping!). And it's not even a rare book—it was reprinted in July.

The Times found similar listings for secondhand books that cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars more than their market price. Those retailers might not even have the book on hand—but if someone is crazy enough to pay $1500 for a mass-market paperback that sells for only a few dollars elsewhere, that retailer can make a killing by simply snapping it up from somewhere else and passing it on to the chump who placed an order with them.

Not all the prices for used books on Amazon are so exorbitant, but many still defy conventional economic wisdom, offering used copies of books that are cheaper to buy new. You can get a new copy of the latest edition of One Snowy Knight for $16.99 from Amazon with Prime shipping, but there are third-party sellers asking $24 to $28 for used copies. If you're not careful, how much you pay can just depend on which listing you click first, thinking that there's not much difference in the price of used books. In the case of One Snowy Knight, there are different listings for different editions of the book, so you might not realize that there's a cheaper version available elsewhere on the site.

An Amazon product listing offers a mass-market paperback book for $1558.33.
Screenshot, Amazon

Even looking at reviews might not help you find the best listing for your money. People tend to buy products with the most reviews, rather than the best reviews, according to recent research, but the site is notorious for retailers gaming the system with fraudulent reviews to attract more buyers and make their way up the Amazon rankings. (There are now several services that will help you suss out whether the reviews on a product you're looking at are legitimate.)

For more on how Amazon's marketplace works—and why its listings can sometimes be misleading—we recommend listening to this episode of the podcast Reply All, which has a fascinating dive into the site's third-party seller system.

[h/t The New York Times]

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Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Sam's Club Brings $.99 Polish Hot Dogs to All Stores After They're Cut From Costco's Food Courts
Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In early July, Costco angered many customers with the announcement that its beloved Polish hot dog was being removed from the food court menu. If you're someone who believes cheap meat tastes best when eaten in a bulk retail warehouse, Sam's Club has good news: The competing big box chain has responded to Costco's news by promising to roll out Polish hot dogs in all its stores later this month, Business Insider reports.

The Polish hot dog has long been a staple at Costco. Like Costco's classic hot dog, the Polish dog was part of the food court's famously affordable $1.50 hot dog and a soda package. The company says the item is being cut in favor of healthier offerings, like açai bowls, organic burgers, and plant-based protein salads.

The standard hot dog and the special deal will continue to be available in stores, but customers who prefer the meatier Polish dog aren't satisfied. Fans immediately took their gripes to the internet—there's even a petition on Change.org to "Bring Back the Polish Dog!" with more than 6500 signatures.

Now Sam's Clubs are looking to draw in some of those spurned customers. Its version of the Polish dog will be sold for just $.99 at all stores starting Monday, July 23. Until now, the chain's Polish hot dogs had only been available in about 200 Sam's Club cafés.

It's hard to imagine the Costco food court will lose too many of its loyal followers from the menu change. Polish hot dogs may be getting axed, but the popular rotisserie chicken and robot-prepared pizza will remain.

[h/t Business Insider]

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