Ben & Jerry’s closes, ending a nonprofit youth skills program

Community Action of Minneapolis closed the shop after a rent dispute.

Christine Bristal scopes up a dish for one of the last customers the Washington Avenue Ben and Jerry’s served on Friday, which was the final day the store was open.

Christine Bristal scopes up a dish for one of the last customers the Washington Avenue Ben and Jerry’s served on Friday, which was the final day the store was open.

Jennifer Bissell

The Ben & JerryâÄôs ice cream shop on Washington Avenue closed Friday after 11 years on campus, ending the nonprofit training program behind the store as well.
The shopâÄôs nonprofit owner, Community Action of Minneapolis, wasnâÄôt able to come to an agreement with its landlord over an increase in rent.
Community Action of Minneapolis Chief Administrative Officer Wanda N. Walker, who ran the shop, said she was sad to see the program come to an end.
âÄúFor us, it wasnâÄôt about the ice cream,âÄù Walker said. âÄúIt was about changing individualsâÄô lives.âÄù
Since the nonprofit opened in 2000, the shop trained 800 youth, provided jobs for 600 and paid out roughly $818,000 in wages.
The mission of the shop was to give low-income youth on-the-job skills and work experience to help them find employment elsewhere in the future.
âÄúIt is such a joy to know that your mission is being met,âÄù Walker said.
Walker said 115 youth who have gone through the program went to college afterward. Having the shop in Stadium Village helped encourage that âÄî employees were able to observe the students and realize that higher education wasnâÄôt out of reach.
Christine Bristol, 18, said she was sad to see the program end since it meant others wonâÄôt be able to get the same kind of experience she had working there.
âÄúIâÄôve seen how the youth all grew in the program,âÄù Bristol said, adding that even those who showed the least potential grew. âÄúThey were able to express themselves better and show their strengths [by the end].âÄù
Shavontre Williams, 16, said he didnâÄôt know what heâÄôd do after he stopped working there.
âÄúThis has been keeping me occupied,âÄù Williams said. âÄúKeeps me out of trouble and helps me build better work skills.âÄù
Williams said itâÄôs easy for him to get in trouble since he likes to stay out of the house, but that this job had kept him on his feet and active. As he served customers Friday, he seemed to enjoy it as well.
âÄúIâÄôll miss the people and IâÄôll miss having something to do,âÄù Williams said. âÄúAnd IâÄôll miss getting paid.âÄù
After the store closes, Williams said he wants to find another job so that he can add to his résumé instead of his criminal record.
Eating at the shop one last time with his sister and his girlfriend, University of Minnesota sophomore Alex Burt said heâÄôd miss the store too. Before his girlfriend, Jacquelyn Rupp, was enrolled at the University, the two used to meet at the shop every other week when she came to visit.
âÄúItâÄôs kind of tradition,âÄù Burt said. âÄúNow it will be just one fewer thing that we do.âÄù
His sister, University senior Ashleigh Burt, said she was sad it was closing because it had been also been a tradition for sections of the marching band to meet at the shop in the spring.
âÄúItâÄôs a really good gathering place,âÄù she said. âÄúI understand [why itâÄôs closing], but itâÄôs still sad.âÄù
Walker said Community Action of Minneapolis is considering starting a similar program but that it can be difficult to find the funding and start a new program when so many others are being eliminated. If they did start another retail-training program, she said theyâÄôd try to market the nonprofit aspect more. Not many people knew about the program behind Ben & JerryâÄôs, Walker said.
âÄúI feel like weâÄôve been really successful,âÄù Walker said. âÄúItâÄôs been a great run for us. WeâÄôre proud.âÄù