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Franchises with Cold Treats that are Red Hot: Ice Cream Legend Carvel and Modern-Day Sensation Cold Stone

by Patricia Schaefer

Americans love ice cream, and America makes ice cream. The United States is the leading producer of ice cream in the world. U.S. sales of ice cream and frozen desserts last year were close to $22 billion. A good one-third of ice cream sales are spent for products for home consumption, but the majority of ice cream dollars are spent at away-from-home establishments -- places like Carvel and Cold Stone Creamery.

In 1936, Tom Carvel developed his secret soft serve ice cream formula and opened his first ice cream store in Hartsdale, New York. Franklin Roosevelt was president and our country was still in the midst of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, Carvel became a resounding success. Presently there are 550 Carvel locations, and 1000 locations expected by 2009. Carvel also sells its famous ice cream cakes in over 8,500 supermarket outlets.

Fast forward fifty-two years later to 1988 when Donald and Susan Sutherland took their passion for smooth and creamy ice cream, and opened the first Cold Stone Creamery in Tempe, Arizona. Customers fell in love with the ice cream creations that are made to order for each customer by blending in mix-ins on a frozen granite stone. Today, Cold Stone is one of the fastest growing franchises in America with more than 1300 stores.

The next time you get a craving for the cold stuff on a warm, balmy day, you might want to consider trying some of these scoop shops' customer favorites. At Cold Stone, you may want to partake of their popular Peanut Butter Cup Perfection (chocolate ice cream with peanut butter, Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and fudge) or their Strawberry Passion (layers of moist red velvet cake, strawberry ice cream with graham cracker crust and strawberry puree covered in a light strawberry frosting). And what has been called the "best soft-serve ice cream in the world," traditional Carvel in cones and cups continues to be an evergreen and everlasting favorite. There really is a secret formula that is unique only to Carvel, a formula that has been the same for many, many years. Some more contemporary Carvel front-runners are Carvelanche (blended ice cream creations) and Sundae Dasher (sundaes packaged in a clear, portable cup).

Carvel representative Jennifer McLaughlin says the secret to Carvel's success goes back to their founder, Tom Carvel, who was more than just your average everyday entrepreneur: "Tom Carvel had a passion for ice cream, and a passion for customer service, and was as much of an inventor as he was an entrepreneur. Beginning with the creation of his no-air pump ice cream machine and secret 'Carvella' flavoring, Tom introduced hundreds of patents, trademarks, and copyright registrations. Tom was also something of a marketing genius, introducing unique concepts like 'buy one, get one free' and gift certificates. He also created a number of novelty items and beloved characters like the Flying Saucer, Fudgie the Whale, and Cookie Puss."

What also sets Carvel apart, says McLaughlin, is that they are the only ice cream franchise that offers four product lines (soft serve, hand dipped, novelties and cakes), and that their soft serve ice cream is "the absolute best." She adds, "We offer guests the very finest ice cream products made fresh daily and served by welcoming associates, in a clean, fun, and family-friendly environment."

Cold Stone's more recent meteoric success is owed to a number of factors as well. Representative Kevin Donnellan says, "Our success can be attributed to both the demand for our fresh-made, super-premium ice cream that can be customized by ice cream lovers, and the superior small business opportunity we provide to entrepreneurs who want to be in business for themselves, not by themselves. Our Vision Statement is, 'The world will know us as The Ultimate Ice Cream Experience by making us the #1 best-selling ice cream brand in America by December 31, 2009.'"

Donnellan shared what makes Cold Stone such a uniquely satisfying experience for their patrons: "We're a personalized indulgence and Cold Stone creates a ten minute vacation. When someone comes to a Cold Stone, they're greeted with the smells of fresh made waffle cones and brownies. Our Crew Members entertain our guests with songs and games and people are guaranteed to leave with a smile."

Cold Stone Creamery fans will be happy to learn that Cold Stone will be introducing a number of new flavors and products this summer. Here are just a few: Delicious Dirt; Chocolate Ice Cream with Oreo Cookies (a Kids' Ice Cream Creation), Watermelon Fruit Sensation; Watermelon Sorbet with Blueberries, Strawberries and Whipped Topping, and Cherry Cheeseshake; a Shake with Cheesecake Ice Cream, Milk and Cherry Pie Filling.

For those whose passion for ice cream is also of the entrepreneurial kind, here's what these two frozen dessert franchises had to say about what they're looking for in prospective franchisees:

Cold Stone Creamery -- "We're looking for entrepreneurs who are as passionate about our ice cream as we are. Our franchisees come from a myriad of backgrounds, but all share the same Vision and core values: Do the Right Thing, Be the Best … Be #1, Bring Out the Best in Our People, Profit by Making People Happy, and Win as a Team."

Carvel -- "Carvel is seeking out highly-motivated individuals for franchise opportunities who are passionate about owning their own business and creating lasting memories for their customers, as well as becoming an integral part of the community in which they serve. Generally, our most successful franchisees are active in their communities and create a reputation that begins and ends with making people happy each and every day. The ability to follow the Carvel 'system' while creating a store that is 'the place to go' for all special celebratory occasions in your local community is a must for Carvel franchisees."

And what are some of the things that each of these popular ice cream franchises has to offer individuals looking to invest in their franchise opportunity?

Cold Stone Creamery -- "We are one of the fastest growing franchises in America: Ranked #11 on Entrepreneur Magazine's 2006 list of the 'Fastest Growing Franchises in America.' We are also receiving accolades from the ice cream lovers: Received the '2005 Consumers' Choice in Chains Award' in the 'Treat' category in the August 2005 issue of Restaurants & Institutions. In 2005, we received more than 25,000 applications from potential franchisees and traditionally award less then one percent."

Carvel -- "Since the company's founding in 1934, Carvel has become one of the best-loved and most recognized names in its industry. Today, Carvel enjoys brand awareness of over 90% in our core markets and continues to build on our rich heritage. Carvel's unique concepts allow our franchisees to offer our delicious ice cream products in a wide range of locations and opportunities.

"Our training program was designed to teach a new franchisee everything they need to know to own and operate a Carvel ice cream store, so having restaurant experience is not a requirement. Our franchising program and support we provide is geared to both the individual single unit owner as well as those who are looking to own multiple Carvel locations. Having a site identified is not a requirement to owning a Carvel franchise. Our Carvel Development Network was designed to help our franchisees open their Carvel store by providing a list of real estate brokers to find potential sites, lenders to provide financing, as well as architects and contractors, if needed."

Copyright 2006, Attard Communications, Inc.

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