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Invite for February 2006 MAGIC Party
PASSWORD: Wednesday is Sundae at Carvel

February's MAGIC GARDEN is in loving memory of Jamie Mullins (1967- 2005). To honor this dear friend, who made NYC a more beautiful place, the recipient of this month's "Be Nice Campaign" will be the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center.

Well my furry friends, can you believe we're commemorating five years of MAGIC GARDEN? What better way to celebrate than with America's freshest ice cream! I was just cavorting with my best pals Fudgie the Whale, Cookie Puss (and his cousin visiting from Ireland, Cookie O'Puss), those zany Flying Saucers, and little Thinny Thin, who was looking rather gaunt. We gabbed about the good ole days - the graffiti, the way NYC photos from the 70s, no matter how blue the sky, always look sort of grim and gritty. We ironed patches on the knees of our high-water dungarees while playing with kerbangers, and took turns massaging Thinny Thin's sore neck from carrying that heavy boombox. I wish he would just wear a walkman!

Yes, Carvel still exists, but not in the form we knew it. I can't remember the last time Wednesday really was Sundae. You can frequently find Carvel ice cream cakes (with those yummy chocolaty crispy cookie pieces placed just so) in the freezer section of your local grocer (in 1998, Carvel began placing branded freezers in 4,500 supermarkets), but it's not like going to that counter back in the day.

Carvel has a rich (and delicious) history, and was an innovating force in the business world, which led to its long standing status as NYC's most popular ice cream. And let's not forget that catchy jingle: "Carvel ice cream. Carvel ice cream. We make fresh ice cream, every day at Carvel. America's freshest ice cream, every day at Carvel." Carvel started with Greek born Thomas Carvelas, who moved to NYC in 1910, at the age of four. After a stint as a drummer in a dixieland band, and an auto tester for Studebakers, he borrowed $15 from his future wife and began selling ice cream from his mobile truck. On Memorial Day weekend in 1934 his truck got a flat tire in Hartsdale, NY, so he started selling the melting ice cream to vacationers driving by. As the story goes, he parked next to a pottery store, the storeowner let him plug into his electricity, and Carvel continued to sell from that location. Two years later he bought the pottery store, converted it into a roadside stand, and became the first retailer to develop and market soft serve ice cream. Yes, Tom Carvel created soft serve ice cream! With the coming of World War II, Carvel was shipped out to Fort Bragg, N.C., where he served as a refrigeration consultant and concessionaire. There he improved his ice cream freezer technology and top secret formula for liquid ice cream (soft serve) that we know and love today. Tommy started selling his patented machinery to stores, and decided to sell his expertise too; for a flat fee and a percentage of the profits, he taught independent storeowners the ropes, allowing them to market ice cream under the Carvel name. Carvel cultivated this relatively unknown idea called franchising, and opened 25 stores by the early 1950s. His training seminar was called the Carvel College of Ice Cream Knowledge, or "Sundae School." If you want to your very own Carvel franchise, call 800-227-8353.

Some more significant Carvel factoids:

  • First to introduce the marketing concept “Buy One Get One Free”
  • Cookie Puss is a space alien who was born on planet Birthday
  • Beastie Boys wrote a song called "Cookie Puss" (1983)
  • First in the industry with the gift certificate concept
  • First to use CEO in radio and TV commercials (as a wee lassie, I thought that Richard Dawson and Tom Carvel were the same person)
  • First in industry to develop a complete line of all-Kosher products
  • First company to offer diet ice cream treats (Lo-Yo frozen yogurt and Thinny-Thin)
  • George Steinbrenner is rumored to keep a freezer full of Carvel
  • Tom Carvel set up an "all you can eat" account for Jackie Gleason
  • Carvel has over 300 patents
  • Tom Carvel was Oprah’s first talk show interview in October 1978 on Baltimore’s WJZ-TV 13
  • Carvel holds the Guinness World Record for the "Largest Ice Cream Scoop Pyramid" and "Largest Ice Cream Cake" (12,096 pounds, 54 people to build and assemble, 19 feet long, nine feet wide, and two feet high)
  • The American History Museum of the Smithsonian Institute has a section of "Carvel History and Memorabilia"
  • Travel Channel chose Carvel as the “Best Ice Cream Cake” - March 2004 (um, have they tried Haagen Dazs?)
Dessert time is over.

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