Jerry Greenfield

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Jerry Greenfield
Greenfield in 2010
Born (1951-03-14) March 14, 1951 (age 72)[1]
Alma materOberlin College (1973)
OccupationFood company founder
Known forCo-founder of Ben & Jerry's with Ben Cohen
Elizabeth Skarie
(m. 1987)

Jerry Greenfield (born March 14, 1951) is an American businessman and philanthropist. He is a co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Holdings, Inc.

Greenfield grew up on Long Island. He attended Oberlin College, where he was a National Merit Scholar and followed a pre-med curriculum before graduating in 1973.[2] He applied unsuccessfully for medical school before deciding to go into business with Ben Cohen, a childhood friend.[2] After taking a course in ice-cream making from Penn State, Greenfield and Cohen opened their first ice cream store in downtown Burlington, Vermont.[2] 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.[3]

Personal life and education[edit]

Jerry Greenfield grew up on Long Island, to a family of Jewish roots.[4] He attended Merrick Avenue Junior High School, where he met Ben Cohen in 1963.[5] Greenfield and Cohen both attended Calhoun High School and remained friends until they both graduated and left Long Island to attend college.[5][6]

Greenfield chose to pursue a pre-med curriculum at Oberlin College,[2] where he began working as an ice cream scooper in the school's cafeteria.[3]

After graduating in 1973, Greenfield failed to get into medical school.[2] At this point, Greenfield decided to move back to New York where he shared an apartment with Cohen and worked as a lab technician.[7][8] In 1974, Greenfield was again rejected from medical school and decided to move to North Carolina with his future wife, Elizabeth Skarie, and continued to work as a lab technician.[5]

Greenfield lived with Cohen in Saratoga Springs, New York during the summer of 1977.[9] After initially considering opening a bagel shop, they chose to open an ice cream store.[2] They took a five-dollar correspondence course in ice-cream making and opened their first store in a former gas station in Burlington, Vermont.[2][9] Ben & Jerry's opened in the summer of 1978.[3][10]

During the 1980s, Greenfield left the business to support Elizabeth in Arizona as she pursued a Ph.D. in psychology.[citation needed] The couple returned to Vermont in 1985, when Greenfield assumed the position of Director of Mobile Promotions.[citation needed]

In 1987, Greenfield married Elizabeth Skarie and in 1988, they had a son Tyrone.[11] He resides in Williston, Vermont, a small town just outside Burlington.[12]

On April 18, 2016, Greenfield and Cohen were arrested at a Democracy Awakening protest in Washington, D.C.[13][14]

Ben & Jerry's[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Greenfield (right) in 2012 with Ben Cohen

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.[15][16]

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.[17] In 1987 Häagen-Dazs again tried to enforce exclusive distribution, and Ben & Jerry's filed its second lawsuit against the Pillsbury Company.[18]

In April 2000, Ben & Jerry's was bought by the multinational food giant, Unilever.[19] Since the purchase, Greenfield and Cohen have continued to be involved at the company but Jerry said in an interview they had "no responsibility, no authority, and very little influence."[20]


  1. ^ Carey, Charles W. (2014). American Inventors, Entrepreneurs, and Business Visionaries. Infobase Publishing. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-8160-6883-8. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Daugherty, Greg. "7 Really Famous People Who Were Rejected by Graduate School". Money. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  3. ^ a b c "Jerry Greenfield, An Evening of Entrepreneurial Spirit, Social Responsibility, and Radical Business Philosophy". Omnibus Lecture Series. 5 March 2008. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-13.
  4. ^ "Ben and Jerry's Issues Statement Urging People to 'Dismantle White Supremacy'". 11 June 2020.
  5. ^ a b c "Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield". Newsday. January 2004. Archived from the original on January 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-13.
  6. ^ Garcia, Andrew (September 20, 2018). "Calhoun grads Ben and Jerry return to Long Island". Herald Life. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  7. ^ "How We Met: Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield". The Independent. 1995-05-28. Archived from the original on 2022-06-08. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  8. ^ "Iconic entrepreneur to deliver address at Mesa State event – The Business Times". Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  9. ^ a b "Vermont's Finest? Ben & Jerry's Tried To Launch Their Ice Cream Empire In Saratoga". Saratoga Living. 2017-06-19. Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  10. ^ O'Connor, Kevin (2015-09-07). "Ben & Jerry's global growth lacks one local ingredient". VTDigger. Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  11. ^ "Jerry Greenfield biography" Archived 2018-03-23 at the Wayback Machine retrieved November 19, 2013
  12. ^ "Jerry Greenfield". Notable Names Database. 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-13.
  13. ^ Lauren Maloney (19 April 2016). "Ice Cream's Ben & Jerry Arrested".
  14. ^ "Ben & Jerry's Co-Founders Arrested During Protest".
  15. ^ "Things you didn't know about Ben & Jerry's". The Daily Meal. 2016-11-25. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  16. ^ "Ben & Jerry's Is Turning 40. Here's How They Captured a Trend That Changed American Ice Cream". Time. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  17. ^ "From the Vault: Ben & Jerry's". Archived from the original on 2010-05-04. Retrieved 2017-05-03.
  18. ^ "Court Issues Injunction Against Haagen-Dazs Forcing Out Ben & Jerry's". Associated Press. Retrieved 2017-05-03.
  19. ^ "Ben & Jerry's & Unilever to Join Forces". Ben & Jerry's Press Release. Archived from the original on 2008-04-05. Retrieved 2008-04-14.
  20. ^ "Coneheads". Boston Phoenix. 14 August 2003. Archived from the original on 4 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-15.

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