Steve's Ice Cream

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Steve's Ice Cream depicted in Dan Mazur's "Seafood Sundae" from Leftovers of the Living Dead (Fat Cat Funnies, 2010).

Steve's Ice Cream was an ice-cream parlor chain which attracted media attention and long lines when original owner Steve Herrell opened his first establishment at 191 Elm Street in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1973. This is known as the Original Steve's Ice Cream. It introduced the concept of super-premium ice cream and customized ice cream desserts using the mix-in. MSNBC travel/leisure journalist Tom Austin credits Herrell for this innovative milestone in the ice cream industry: "Modern gourmet ice cream is widely considered to have been born at the original Steve’s in Boston."[1]

While Steve sold the company in 1977, its business concepts inspired other chains, such as Cold Stone Creamery and Amy's Ice Creams, and well-known products, including the Dairy Queen Blizzard and Wendy's Twisted Frosty product lines.[2]

In 1980, Steve Herrell opened up a new ice cream business, Herrell's Ice Cream, but stepped down as a day-to-day operator in 2014.[3]


When Steve Herrell (who graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park in 1967 with a degree in sociology[4]) founded Steve's Ice Cream in 1973, he mechanically altered a small batch commercial freezer to produce an extraordinarily rich, creamy, low-air ice cream.[5] Herrell was introduced to the Heath Bar candy bar by a friend in the late 1960s and felt it would make an excellent addition to ice cream. When he opened his first store, instead of having pre-mixed flavors like chocolate chip, he had his staff mix freshly made ice cream with candy or other confections based upon customer requests. These candy additions were called mix-ins, and the custom-blended flavors proved to be highly desired by the customer. Steve sold out of ice cream on his first day, and the store became very popular in a short time.[5][6][7]

The prices in 1975 were $.35 and $.55 for cones with an additional $.10 for each "mix-in" of M&M's, Heath bars and others. A fruit mix-in was another $.10. Sundaes were $.75 and $1.25, banana splits were $1.75 and egg creams were $.40.

While waiting in line, customers could pay a dime to rent a piano roll for the store's player piano[8] which Steve had rebuilt.

In 1977, Herrell sold his company for $80,000 to Joe Crugnale, the future founder of the Bertucci's restaurant chain. The company was again sold in 1983. For several years the chain was co-located with the D'Angelos sub chain until D'angelo's was purchased by Yum! Brands in 1993 and Steve's was replaced in favor of Pizza Hut. The company closed in the late 1990s.[9]

Discord arose in the late 1980s between franchise owners and Steve’s corporate office when Steve’s began selling pre-packaged ice cream in various grocery stores. Franchise owners were disgruntled that the corporate offices were luring customers away from their local ice cream shops. In addition, they argued that the sale of prepackaged ice cream bearing the “Steve’s” name was inconsistent with the concept that Steve’s was a premium hand-made ice cream. In response, some franchise owners refused to continue paying franchise fees. Ultimately, a number of franchises were forced to go out of business, which likely contributed to the company’s demise.[10]

Industry impact[edit]

Steve has been credited with inspiring the founders of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, whose original store, opened in 1978, included, like Steve's, a freezer to churn the ice cream and a player piano.[11][8] A photo of Steve, Ben and Jerry hangs on the wall of Herrell's Northampton, Mass. store.[12]

The popularity of the Heath Bar smoosh-in, created by Steve's and utilized by later chains, prompted the Heath company to expand its operation to include a commercial foods division.[6] Later chains took the concept of the smoosh-in and applied it to their operations, creating a whole new industry around it. Because Herrell trademarked the term smoosh-in, most chains refer to the term as mix-in in industry terminology.[10]


In 2009, the Steve's Ice Cream brand was acquired by David Stein. He was an employee of the Steve's Ice Cream which was owned by Integrated Resources in the 1980s. The new Brooklyn-based Steve's Ice Cream was launched in 2011 with the distribution of packaged ice cream (with guar gum added)[13][14] plus stores located in Manhattan and Brooklyn.[15] David Stein and The Fresh Ice Cream Co.—which was doing business as Steve’s Ice Cream—filed for bankruptcy in February 2017 and was purchased by Dean Foods Company of Dallas, Texas in June 2017.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Austin, Tom. "America's best ice cream shops", NBC News, July 5, 2009.
  2. ^ Bruce Mohl (2004-05-23). "The scoop on Boston's ice cream war". Article. The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-12-21. Their Coldstone Creamery stores feature ice cream made fresh on the premises each day and frozen stone slabs where the ice cream is mixed with candy, nuts, and other mix-ins, a concept popularized in Somerville in the 1970s by Steve Herrell at the original Steve's Ice Cream. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  3. ^ "FAQ - Herrell's Ice Cream". Retrieved August 20, 2015.
  4. ^ "From the Mixed-in Files of Mr. Ice Cream". Retrieved October 13, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Herrell, Steve. "History of Herrell's" 26 May 26, 2010.
  6. ^ a b Eric Asimov (1987-08-27). "Heath Bar finds its Metier:Ice Cream". the New York Times. Steve Herrell didn't know a Heath bar from a hole in a doughnut until a friend gave him one in the late 1960s. But when he tasted the milk-chocolate-covered bar of crunchy toffee, he recalled, he had a single, all-penetrating inspiration: This would be great with ice cream!
  7. ^ Andrea Pyenson (2001-08-16). "Recalling a luscious loss of innocence". the Boston Globe. Column. p. H7. Retrieved 2007-12-22. He picked me up, and we eagerly negotiated our way through the back streets of Somerville, until we arrived at the spot of our assignation: Steve's. The original, unbeatable, often-imitated-but-never-equaled Steve's Ice Cream.
  8. ^ a b Rancatore, Gus (18 September 2009). "R.I.P. Herrell's Ice Cream: A toast from Toscanini's". Cambridge Day. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  9. ^ Keynote Entrepreneur: Bertucci's
  10. ^ a b Leiber, Ron. "Ice-cream parlors going nuts over extras". Chicago Sun Times, May 9, 2003. "Steve Herrell first popularized what were then called 'mix-ins' at Steve's Ice Cream in Boston about 30 years ago. He sold Steve's and later opened another chain, Herrell's, and trademarked 'Smoosh-in' to describe his process."
  11. ^ Wernhoff, Lisa. "A Look Back at the Original Ben & Jerry's Shop". Ben & Jerry's. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  12. ^ Gardner, Debbie (August 2013). "With Steve Herrell, the ice cream is still king". Prime Magazine. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  13. ^ Krikorian, Michael (2013-12-30). "The Year in Ice Cream; 339,150 Calories in 1 Flavor". Krikorian Writes (blog).
  14. ^ Steve's Ice Cream: All Flavors: Ingredient list for Small Batch Bourbon Vanilla. Archived 2014-05-02 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Steve's Ice Cream FAQ Archived 2011-10-31 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Indie ice-cream brand Steve's gets scooped up out of bankruptcy". Crain's New York Business. 2017-06-18.

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