Ben Cohen Taxi Driver
March 26, 2012 by staff
Ben Cohen Taxi Driver, Ben Cohen (born March 18, 1951 in Brooklyn, New York), is a co-founder of the ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s. Raised in the town of Merrick on Long Island by his parents Frances and Irving, Cohen first met and befriended his future business partner, Jerry Greenfield, in a junior high school gym class in 1963. In his senior year, Cohen found work as an ice cream man before heading off to attend Colgate University upstate.
Over the next decade, Cohen pursued his interest in pottery as he mixed further education – Skidmore, the University Without Walls program, the New School, and NYU – with a vast variety of menial labor – gigs as a McDonald’s cashier, a Pinkerton guard, deliverer of pottery wheels, a mop-boy at Jamesway and Friendly’s, an assistant superintendent, an ER clerk, and a taxi driver – before eventually settling on work as a craft teacher at a private school for emotionally disturbed adolescents. It was during his three years at the Highland Community School that he began experimenting with making his own ice cream.
Around 1977, Ben had decided to go into the food business with his old friend Jerry Greenfield, and in May of the next year, the two men opened Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream Parlor in Burlington, Vermont. They had initially intended to start a bagel business, but found the equipment costs prohibitive and switched to ice cream instead, choosing Burlington as a location because it was a prominent college town which lacked an ice cream shop. In part, their distinctive style of ice cream was developed to compensate for Ben’s anosmia – his loss of smell and near-loss of taste – as Ben kept adding larger and larger chunks to the ice cream to satisfy his need for texture in food.
Ben & Jerry’s became an instant hit in Burlington, drawing crowds with ice creams that mixed fresh local cream and milk with wild new flavors and “large portions of whatever ingredients they felt tasted good on the day of making.”
Ben resigned as Chief Executive Officer in 1996. Ben has not been actively involved with the company since the Unilever acquisition in 2000, apart from his membership on the advisory board.
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