Written by Ben & Jerry’s Archivist: Lisa Wernhoff.
Ben & Jerry’s officially opened for business on Saturday, May 5, 1978. It was located in an old gas station on the corner of St. Paul and College Street in Burlington, Vermont.
The original Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop. Source: Ben & Jerry’s
Outside the original Ben & Jerry’s ice cream store. Source: Ben & Jerry’s
Looking outside from inside the Ben & Jerry’s original scoop shop. Source: Ben & Jerry’s
Sadly, the gas station no longer remains, and the location is now a parking lot, though a plaque is now embedded in the sidewalk in front of the former location.
The location of the original Ben & Jerry’s store. The yellow arrow points to the plaque that is embedded in the sidewalk. Source: Google Earth
For those of you that haven’t read Chico Lager’s book, Ben & Jerry’s: the Inside Scoop, you really should. The description of the gas station will further reinforce the notion of how amazing Jerry and Ben were to actually make a go of it. I was living in the Middlebury area when the Gas Station was open. On a trip to Burlington with friends, we decided to stand in line for an ice cream cone. They ran out of ice cream before we got inside. I figured they must be doing something right!
From Chico’s book:
“There was no heat in the building, and a three-to-four-inch layer of ice covered the floor when they took possession in February of 1978. The ceiling in the bays had been insulated with batts of fiberglass and covered with plastic, but never dry walled. The insulation was soaked and the plastic had sagged down with water that had seeped through the roof. Junk was strewn everywhere.”
An ice cream eating contest outside the scoop shop. Source: Ben & Jerry’s
“They had rented only one of the two service bays and the office area, so they framed up a stud wall to delineate their space. The local farmer, who had sold produce in front of the gas station the previous summer, remained as the building’s other tenant.
The bay was renovated into the kitchen and serving area. The front counter was set back enough from the overhead door so that the customers would have room to congregate. Behind the counter were the dip cases, and behind them a stove, the crêpe griddle, and two homemade worktables built out of green, rough-cut lumber purchased directly from the mill. ‘It was the cheapest wood we could get because it hadn’t dried out yet,’ Ben recalls. ‘We would nail it and it would squirt at us.’”
A piano player inside the original Ben & Jerry’s. Note the blue ice cream maker in the bottom right. Source: Ben & Jerry’s
Back then, the ice cream was made in a four-and-a-half gallon White Mountain rock-salt and ice freezer. We have most of the parts to reassemble the wooden tub freezer, which is on display in the lobby of our headquarters. We’re missing the stand that the whole thing is assembled onto. Someday we’ll find one!