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9 Things You Might Not Know About Friendly's

The ice cream chain celebrated its 80th birthday this year!

1. IT WAS FOUNDED BY A PAIR OF BROTHERS DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION.

Curtis and S. Prestley Blake—who were just 18 and 20 years old at the time—opened Friendly Ice Cream in Springfield, Mass. in 1935. The brothers borrowed $547 from their parents for the shop, where they sold two-scoop cones at 5 cents apiece. The brothers' contrasting personalities later led to a brief falling out, but it was also their secret to success.

"My mom used to say if Pres owned the business alone, he wouldn’t have any employees," Curtis, then 97, told the Boston Globe in 2014. "If I owned the business alone, I would give it all away to the employees."

2. FOOD WAS ADDED TO THE MENU FOR THE SECOND LOCATION.

Their first shop only offered ice cream, but when they opened a second location in West Springfield five years later, food was added to the menu. The first savory offering: A square burger patty on toasted bread known as the Set Up. In the decades since, the original was replaced with a standard burger, but the Set Up remains the favorite of founder Pres Blake.

3. FRIENDLY’S WAS CLOSED FROM 1943—1945.

The brothers closed up shop for two years during World War II—but kept their locations, promising to reopen “when we win the war.”

4. FRIENDLY’S ICE CREAM MIGHT BE THE SECRET TO A LONG LIFE.

Via Friendly's Facebook

The Blake brothers’ mom, Ethel, lived to be 97 years old. Her sons eat ice cream every day—both like chocolate, Pres also enjoys coffee—and both are still living 80 years after founding Friendly’s. Now well past retirement age, the brothers have stayed busy and active. Prestley celebrated his centennial birthday last year with a black-tie bash at his newly-completed $7.5 million replica of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. And Curtis, now 99, funds a school for learning disabled children.

5. THE 'S' CAME LATER.

Via Friendly's Facebook

Even after they started franchising, the Blake brothers’ chain was called simply "Friendly." The possessive didn’t get added until the late 1980s, when Donald Smith, who had already brought his business savvy to McDonald’s and Pizza Hut, bought the chain for $375 million and made the menu full-service along with changing the name ever so slightly.

6. THE FAMOUS FRIBBLE USED TO BE CALLED THE "AWFUL AWFUL."

Via Friendly's Facebook

The recipe for the original Friendly’s shake, which was distinct for using ice milk, was licensed from the Bond ice cream shop chain in New Jersey in the 1940s. There, legend has it, a customer tasted the frothy concoction and described it as “awful big and awful good”—inspiring the name Awful Awful. In the 1960s, Friendly’s started to expand into New Jersey, and needed a new name so as not to infringe on Bond’s territory, since the local chain owned the Awful Awful name. Friendly's held a naming contest and three customers who suggested “Fribble” received $100 each. In the mid-1990s, the Fribble recipe was changed to include soft serve ice cream and revamped again two years ago when Friendly’s switched to hard ice cream.

7. IN 2013, FRIENDLY’S WENT RETRO.

The switch from soft serve to hard ice cream in their famous Fribble was one of a whole slew of changes Friendly’s made in 2013 as the brand attempted to regain financial footing. In 2011, the ice cream chain had been forced to declare bankruptcy and close 100 locations. John M. Maguire, who had previously worked for Panera Bread, was hired to revamp the company with new décor, better music, bigger portion sizes, burgers cooked to order, and a reinvigorated focus on customer service. Many of the elements they incorporated in the new design and menu were inspired by the early days of Friendly’s.

8. FRIENDLY’S HOLDS THE WORLD RECORD FOR LARGEST DESSERT PARTY.

The company celebrated its 78th birthday in 2013 by setting the Guinness World Record for the largest dessert party. The minimum amount of time to constitute a “party” is 15 minutes, so 794 guests sat down for a quarter-hour of ice cream eating at the Friendly's headquarters in Wilbraham, Mass., breaking the previous record of 740 people set the year before in Nebraska. Prestley Blake and his family were among the record-setting attendees, although his brother Curtis was not.

9. THEY SELL A LOT OF PRE-PACKAGED ICE CREAM.

via Friendly's Facebook

The chain is still in the process of building back up their restaurant presence in the wake of filing for bankruptcy, but they do great business in the grocery store aisles. In 2014, Friendly’s produced over 52 million 48-ounce cartons of ice cream, covering 63 flavors. But, as you'd expect, vanilla is their most popular flavor.

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Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
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Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.

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Design
The Secret to the World's Most Comfortable Bed Might Be Yak Hair
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Tengi

Savoir Beds laughs at your unspooling mail-order mattresses and their promises of ultimate comfort. The UK-based company has teamed with London's Savoy Hotel to offer what they’ve declared is one of the most luxurious nights of sleep you’ll ever experience. 

What do they have that everyone else lacks? About eight pounds of Mongolian yak hair.

The elegantly-named Savoir No. 1 Khangai Limited Edition is part of the hotel’s elite Royal Suite accommodations. For $1845 a night, guests can sink into the mattress with a topper stuffed full of yak hair from Khangai, Mongolia. Hand-combed and with heat-dispensing properties, it takes 40 yaks to make one topper. In a press release, collaborator and yarn specialist Tengri claims it “transcends all levels of comfort currently available.”

Visitors opting for such deluxe amenities also have access to a hair stylist, butler, chef, and a Rolls-Royce with a driver.

Savoir Beds has entered into a fair-share partnership with the farmers, who receive an equitable wage in exchange for the fibers, which are said to be softer than cashmere. If you’d prefer to luxuriate like that every night, the purchase price for the bed is $93,000. Purchased separately, the topper is $17,400. Act soon, as only 50 of the beds will be made available each year. 

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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