Friday, May 02, 2014

Life advice from an ice cream god.

Have I told you about the time Ben Cohen was in my shop?

Yes, the Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s Ben Cohen.   So what was he like?  Was he cool and funny and did he tell funny ice cream war stories?   Well, the truth is I never actually met him, but I am still 99% sure it was him.     He stopped into the shop one day last summer, wrote the note you see above, sealed it in an envelope addressed to ‘the proprietor’, and dropped it into the suggestion jar.    Also included in the envelope were five crisp twenty dollar bills.   Yup, a hundred bucks in cash and wise advice from an ice cream god.  Coolest suggestion ever, by far.
As you could guess, Ben Cohen wasn’t the first name that popped into my head when I opened the envelope.   There were a few clues that led me to the godfather of super premium ice cream.

1. The words ‘chocolate matrix’ and ‘inclusions’.   The only people I know who describe the ‘stuff’ in your scoop of ice cream as inclusions are ice cream makers.   Just like I wouldn’t expect you to describe that chocolate swirl in your fudge brownie cone as variegate.   
2. A hundred bucks is a lot of money to just drop into the suggestion jar at your local ice cream shop.   That certainly got my attention.   It took me a long time to actually take the twenties out of the envelope and even consider spending them.   

3. A friend had recently gone to a fundraising event where Ben made an appearance.   This friend, a small business owner on Cottage Street who sells records (Platterpus), chatted with him about, among other things, local ice cream shops, and mentioned my shop to Ben.

4. I’ve heard stories from other small ice cream shop owners having a similar experience.

This seemed like more than enough evidence to convince me I’d been visited by the one and only Ben Cohen.   I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d actually bought a cone.   And did he like it?   When you’re in the food biz, you’re constantly being evaluated and critiqued, if not on yelp or someone’s Facebook page, certainly in the minds of your customers.   All opinions matter, and if they didn’t, what would be the point, but the opinion of Ben Cohen would, well, do I even need to say?

Since he signed it ‘an admirer’, I’ll just wallow in the fact that he liked something I did here.  Even just for the fact that he knows how much hard work and commitment goes into what we do.

So the question you probably have in your head now is did I spend the money on developing a chocolate matrix and not-hard mint inclusions or wine, women, and song?

I did what I thought Ben would want me to do of course.
I spent the first bit on his ice cream idea, and the rest on his other fine suggestions.

A most unexpected work-life balance lesson from Ben Cohen.   

The hundred bucks is long gone, but his words continue to remind me of the important things in life.    Work hard, always try to do better, but don’t forget to have fun along the way.


Josh Rosenblatt said...

Nice blog, Jim. Personally, I can't see how anyone - ice cream maker or not - can not be pleased with what they find at Mt. Tom's.

Eileen Corbeil said...

You write so well - simple but lots of substance and very worth reading. Thanks for all you bring to Cottage St and to Easthampton.

Jim Ingram said...

Thanks Josh & Eileen. Really appreciate it. Hope to do much more this year (of course I say that every year...)!