Ben & Jerry's ice cream was always an Ithaca kind of company: deliciously radical, with a Peace Pop and "Cherry Garcia," and a scoop shop operated by youths as a social project in the heart of our downtown.
Then, in 2000, the company was bought by Unilever, one of the world's largest food corporations. What happened to Small Is Beautiful?
Brad Edmondson, a local author, tells the tale in his new book, "Ice Cream Social: The Struggle For the Soul of Ben & Jerry's."
The book originally started as a collaboration between Edmondson and Jeff Furman, who lives in Ithaca and helped write Ben & Jerry's first business plan in 1977. Jeff has been called "the '&' in Ben & Jerry's." He still serves on the independent board that monitors Unilever's operation of Ben & Jerry's.
After some months of work, Edmondson and Furman decided the story was too big to be too much Jeff's. He supplies the epilogue and serves as a source. The book has a list of over 40 "Main Characters" (an actual list, in front of the book).
Edmondson said that despite the scope of the story, he wanted to write "a book that could be read in one sitting." We are reviewing the book for the Ithaca Times and told him that's exactly what we did, and that it reads at times like a soap opera. He said, "Really? That makes me happy.
"It's not a normal business book," he said. "It can serve as a reference book for certain business practices, and it tells a business story, but unlike many business books, it doesn't pretend to be a road map. It's a story. A story people can learn lessons from, I hope, but I don't tell you what the lessons are. I put the story between the covers and the lessons are for you to determine."
The book's release is imminent and there will be an event at Buffalo Street Books. The tentative date is 13 December. Please look for our full review in the Ithaca Times of Wednesday 11 December.