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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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Food
Former NECCO CEO Has a Plan to Save the Company

It’s been a month of ups and downs for fans of candy company NECCO and its iconic sugary Wafers. In March, The Boston Globe reported the company is in desperate need of a buyer and that CEO Michael McGee notified the state of Massachusetts that most of their employees—around 395 of them—would likely face layoffs if a suitor isn't found by May.

That news caused a bit of a panic among candy lovers, who stormed CandyStore.com to hoard packs and packs of NECCO Wafers, should the company go under. In the weeks since the news about NECCO’s uncertain fate hit, sales of the company's products went up by 82 percent, with the Wafers alone increasing by 150 percent.

Seeing the reaction and knowing there is still plenty of space in the market for the venerable NECCO Wafers, the company’s former CEO, Al Gulachenski, reached out to CandyStore.com to lay out his plan to save the brand—most notably the Wafers and Sweethearts products.

The most important part of the plan is the money he’ll need to raise. Gulachenski is set to raise $5 to $10 million privately, and he’s creating a GoFundMe campaign for $20 million more to get his plan into motion. Once the funding is secure, the company will move to a new factory in Massachusetts that allows them to retain key executives and as many other employees as they can.

“I can promise you that if you donate you will own a piece of NECCO as I will issue shares to everyone that contributes money,” Gulachenski wrote on the GoFundMe page. “This company has been in our back yard for 170 years and it's time we own it.”

Gulachenski also elaborated that, as of now, there is another buyer interested in NECCO, but that buyer “is planning to liquidate the company, fire all the employees and close the doors of NECCO forever!”

So far, Gulachenski has raised only $565 of the $20 million needed. “I know it seems like a long way to go but I do expect some institutions to jump on board and get us most of the way there,” Gulachenski wrote in a GoFundMe update. “It is also likely we can get most of the company if we get to half of our goal.”

There is still a bit of a sour taste for candy fans to swallow, even if NECCO does get saved. According to Gulachenski, the Wafers and the Sweethearts may be the only products that the reorganized NECCO continues with. This could leave lovers of the company's other candies, like Clark Bars and Sky Bars, out in the cold.

“The sugar component Necco Wafer and Sweetheart is certainly the most nostalgic and recognizable brand, more than the chocolate,” Gulachenski told The Boston Globe. “It’s all going to depend how they decide to sell the company and liquidate.”

While you can still order the Wafers in bulk from Candystore.com, the site itself even says it has no idea when or if shipments will stop coming, especially as NECCO's future remains uncertain.

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Food
Are Restaurants Undercooking Your Steak on Purpose?
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Many steak lovers have had the dissatisfying experience of sitting down at a steakhouse, ordering their cut prepared their favorite way, and slicing into their meat only to find it's a shade redder than it's supposed to be. Some undercooked cuts can be chalked up to a mistake on the kitchen's part, but according to the New York Post, some cooks know exactly what they're doing when they take your steak off the grill too early.

Based on anecdotal observations from the Post, high-end steakhouses around New York City are serving steaks that were ordered medium-rare (130°F to 135°F) at a rare temperature (120°F to 125°F) so often that it's become a trend. At first this seems like an issue restaurants would want to avoid: A meal that's not prepared to the customer's liking has a higher chance of being sent back, costing chefs precious time. But the extra minute or two they spend firing a rare steak to medium-rare may pay off in the long run. An undercooked steak can be salvaged, unlike an overcooked steak, which needs to be thrown out and replaced with a whole new cut of beef if the diner is unhappy with it.

At a pricey steakhouse where steaks range from $50 to $150, tossing out premium, dry-aged cuts every night can do some real damage to a restaurant's bottom line. Undercooking steaks on purpose may be inconvenient for both the diners and the cooks, but it can act as a kind of insurance against picky guests.

So what does that mean for carnivores who want to enjoy their steak the way they want it as soon as it hits the table? Do as meat industry insiders do when they're eating out and try gaming the system. If you want your steak cooked medium-rare, the temperature most experts agree maximizes flavor and moisture, ask for medium-rare-plus instead. That way the cook will know to cook it a little longer than they normally would, which will hopefully produce a steak that's pink and juicy rather than blue and bloody.

[h/t New York Post]

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