Thomas Carvel

Business Personality / Inventor
Date Of Birth:
14 July 1906
Date Of Death:
21 October 1990
Place Of Birth:
Athens, Greece
Best Known As:
Founder of the Carvel ice cream empire

Name at birth: Athansios Karvelas

Thomas Carvel founded the Carvel ice cream company and was a pioneer in soft ice cream and retail franchising. The son of Greek immigrants, he began selling ice cream out of a truck in New York around 1930. The now-famous story goes that in 1934 Carvel’s truck broke down and he needed to sell his ice cream fast. He got permission to keep the truck on the property, borrowed an electrical hook-up and sold his ice cream out of his truck to great success. Carvel learned his customers liked softer ice cream, and he learned he sold more by staying in one location. He opened his first store in 1936. By the 1950s, Carvel had a patent on a machine for soft ice cream and frozen yogurt, and was expanding his retail reach by franchising stores that sold his ice cream and ice cream cakes. (Carvel’s ice cream cakes were as famous as the ice cream, and he introduced characters that still exist, including “Fudgie the Whale” and “Cookie Puss” varieties.) He also served as his own media pitchman, and his folksy manner and gravelly voice becoming familiar TV fare (mostly in the northeastern U.S.). Carvel became a rich man, but after his death his estate was wrapped up in litigation for nearly 20 years, greatly diminishing its value.

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