en & Jerry’s offers more to community than ice cream

by Peter Frost

With ice cream flavors like Cherry Garcia, Phish Food and Chunky Monkey, it’s evident that Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc., aren’t typical businessmen.
Cohen and Greenfield have always been known for their off-the-wall ice cream flavors, hippy-like image and socially responsible business practices.
True to form, they opened a new ice cream shop last Tuesday in Stadium Village with those three things in mind. The new shop provides socially conscious consumers with ice cream and also gives back profits to the community.
Ben & Jerry’s PartnerShop Program aligned with Metro Community Investment — an alliance of nonprofits, including Community Action of Minneapolis, Ramsey action programs, Scott-Carver-Dakota Community Action Program and Anoka County Community Action — own and operate the store, giving a majority of the proceeds to community programs.
Part of a national campaign, the PartnerShop program aims to assist underserved youth and adults by donating a “scoop shop” to nonprofit organizations by waiving standard franchise fees.
Upon learning about the program, Bill Davis, president of both Community Action of Minneapolis and the newly formed Metro Community Investment, jumped at the opportunity to get involved.
“We felt Ben & Jerry’s was compatible with our mission — essentially to help people help themselves,” he said.
The proceeds from the store go toward community action agencies and programs that serve low-income families.
In addition to funding programs like food shelves, Head Start centers, after-school programs and senior-citizen empowerment groups, Davis said the project is also aimed at providing training to young adults in the customer service industry.
“We strive to provide top-of-the-line customer service at our franchise,” Davis said. “But the main idea is that we’re providing valuable experience to the young people who work in our shop.”
By placing emphasis on young people, Davis and Ben & Jerry’s founder Cohen decided that a location next to Sally’s Saloon in Stadium Village would be the perfect spot for the facility.
“It’s an area rich with students and a place where people are concerned about social mission and the environment,” Davis said.
Store manager Jocelyn Collis took a pay cut of between $5,000 to $6,000 to work at Ben & Jerry’s. Collis said the social-mission aspect of the job encouraged her to make the change.
“It’s not like a regular corporate setting where you’re earning money that’s lining corporate pockets,” Collis said.
“It’s not just about selling ice cream; it’s about a social mission,” she continued. “(Business) keeps increasing daily, and we haven’t even done any advertising yet.”
Ben & Jerry’s employee Shari Kappes, an English senior, said the job’s social aspect is what appealed to her, as well.
She said she liked all the natural products the store uses and how the company supports smaller businesses.
“Finally, I found a place where I can actually feel good about going to work,” Kappes said.
Both Cohen and Greenfield will be on hand for the store’s Oct. 7 grand opening.
Metro Community Investment is also looking into franchising another Ben & Jerry’s in St. Paul sometime in the future.

Peter Frost covers business and can be reached at pfro[email protected]. He can also be reached at (612)627-4070 x3215.