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Jerry Greenfield in 2010
|Alma mater||Oberlin College (1973)|
|Occupation||Co-founder of Ben & Jerry's|
|Home town||Merrick, New York|
Jerry Greenfield (born March 14, 1951) is an businessman and philanthropist. He is a co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Holdings, Inc.
Throughout his childhood, Greenfield lived in New York City, on Long Island. In 1969, he enrolled at Oberlin College, where he followed a pre-med curriculum before graduating in 1973. He applied unsuccessfully for medical school in two successive years, 1973 and 1974. In 1978 Greenfield and his friend Ben Cohen opened Ben and Jerry's Homemade ice cream scoop shop in an old gas station in downtown Burlington, Vermont. The company, which sold to the British-Dutch corporation Unilever in 2000, has since opened almost 200 franchised shops and reports earnings of $237 million annually.
Personal life and education
Jerry Greenfield was born in Brooklyn, New York, into a Jewish family, son of a stockbroker. He lived on Long Island throughout his youth until he left to attend Oberlin College in 1969. In 1963, Greenfield met Ben Cohen during gym class at Merrick Avenue Middle School. Their initial bond formed when the gym teacher yelled at them for running the mile too slow and warned they would have to run a second mile. At this point, Cohen yelled back, "Gee coach, if I don't do it in under seven minutes the first time, I'm certainly not going to do it in under seven minutes the second time", at which point, Greenfield knew he liked him. Over the next few years, their friendship grew until the two graduated from Calhoun High School and split up to attend separate colleges.
Greenfield was known for being hard-working and studious throughout high school and when he chose to pursue a pre-med curriculum at Oberlin, it took nobody by surprise. At Oberlin, Greenfield began working as an ice cream scooper in the school's cafeteria. His favorite class was "Carnival Techniques," where he learned tricks such as eating fire, and Ben, something he claims to do still on rare occasions.
After graduating in 1973, Greenfield failed twice to get into medical school. At this point, Greenfield decided to move back to New York where he shared an apartment with Cohen on East 10th Street and worked as a lab technician. In 1974, Greenfield tried another time to enter medical school, but when rejected again, he decided to move to North Carolina with his future wife, Elizabeth Skarie, where he continued to work as a lab technician.
In 1976, Greenfield moved back north, this time to live with Cohen in Saratoga Springs, New York, where the pair began pursuing their dream of owning their own business. After initially considering opening a bagel shop, the pair turned their attention to ice cream because the equipment for such a shop was much cheaper. After taking a five dollar correspondence course in ice-cream making, the cost of which they split, the two searched for a warm-weather college town to open up shop in before settling on Burlington, Vermont. Ben & Jerry's opened in the summer of 1978.
During the 1980s, Greenfield left the business to support Elizabeth in Arizona as she pursued a Ph.D. in psychology. The couple returned to Vermont in 1985, when Greenfield assumed the position of Director of Mobile Promotions.
Ben & Jerry's
Greenfield and Cohen began looking for a proper location for their ice cream parlor in 1977. The criteria that they set down were that the location should be a college town, since they assumed college students ate a lot of ice cream, and that it should be warm. After comparing information from almanacs and a guide to American colleges, the pair realized that every warm college town already had an ice cream shop and settled on Burlington, Vermont in 1978, as the location for their shop.
After choosing their town, the two businessmen needed to find a suitable building. They decided on an old gas station and began looking for financing. With a combined savings totaling around $8,000, Greenfield and Cohen began searching for a bank to lend them money. Repeatedly they found themselves rejected because the gas station could only be leased for one year at a time and it was judged unwise to invest large amounts of capital in such a venture. Finally they managed to receive a $4,000 loan and began renovating the station. On May 5, 1978, the parlor opened and throughout the summer experienced success, however, the pair struggled throughout the winter.
In 1980, after experiencing initial success in their attempts to distribute their ice cream to restaurants throughout Vermont, the company moved to a larger facility and began packaging ice cream in pint size containers. In 1984, Häagen-Dazs tried to limit distribution of Ben & Jerry's in Boston, prompting Ben & Jerry's to file suit against Häagen-Dazs' parent company, Pillsbury, in its now famous "What's the Doughboy Afraid Of?" campaign. In 1987 Häagen-Dazs again tried to enforce exclusive distribution, and Ben & Jerry’s filed its second lawsuit against the Pillsbury Company.
In April 2000, Ben & Jerry's was bought by the multinational food giant, Unilever. Since the purchase, Greenfield and Cohen remain active in the company, but claim they have "no responsibility, no authority."
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