CARVEL ICE CREAM RECORDS,
(9 cubic feet: 21 DB, 3 (.5) DB, 1 F/O. 63 videotapes (x2), 12 audiocassettes (x4))
by: Jeffrey B. Gale, December 10, 1993
The Carvel Corporation is an American success story. Through hard work and timely luck, its founder and president, Tom Carvel, turned an ice cream trailer with a flat tire into an international chain of ice cream supermarkets with over 800 outlets in 17 states and six countries.
Thomas Andreas Carvelas was born July 14, 1906, in Athanassos, Greece. He was one of seven children of Andreas and Christina Karvelas. The family emigrated from Greece to Danbury, Connecticut, in 1910, and finally settled in New York City in 1920. His father was a chemist and wine specialist who helped support his family during prohibition by restoring fermented wine for Greek restaurant owners.
Tom's father sparked Tom's interest in how things worked. Tom tried his hand as a salesman of radios and automobiles, a test driver for Studebaker, and an auto mechanic. At the age of twenty-six, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and his doctors advised him to move out of the city. Consequently, he borrowed $1,000 from relatives and built a frozen custard trailer. His first break came on Memorial Day, 1934, when he borrowed $20 from Agnes Stewart (his future wife), bought a trailer load of custard, and set out to sell it to vacationers in Westchester County, New York. Tom Carvel suffered a minor setback when his trailer had a flat tire in Hartsdale, New York. But luck was on his side: there was a pottery shop across the street and Pop Quinlan, the potter, allowed him to use his electricity so the custard would not melt.
Tom Carvel kept his trailer on the pottery shop's lot and in his first year grossed $3,500. The following year, realizing that a permanent location could be profitable, he leased the shop for $100. In 1937, he borrowed more money and converted the trailer into a frozen custard stand, complete with a second-hand freezer which enabled him to make his own custard. By 1939, he was grossing $6,000 a year and was well on his way toward becoming the "Ice Cream King of the East."
In the early 1940s Agnes, his wife, operated the Hartsdale store while Carvel traveled the carnival circuits selling his frozen custard from a mobile vending vehicle. Next, he managed the ice cream cone stands at the post exchange at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Tom Carvel soon developed his own freezer model, known as a batch freezer, (the first of his sixteen U.S. Patent Registrations). In 1947, he sold 71 freezers at $2,900 each under the trade name "Custard King." When some owners defaulted on their payments Carvel discovered that many of the freezer owners were careless in their selection of locations, disregarded cleanliness, and worked sporadically, while others were selling additional, non-ice cream food items. Determined to make the venture succeed, he decided to oversee the operations of the freezer owners directly. He claimed to have developed the franchise concept in 1949 as a result of this strategy.
Franchise business opportunities allow investors to enter retailing without prior business experience and to own their own business. In the case of the Carvel Corporation, potential franchise owners bought equipment and supplies from the Corporation and used the Carvel name. In return, Carvel helped them select a location, taught them how to run an ice cream business, and organized resources for advertising and promotions. Franchise owners were taught the retail ice cream business at the Carvel College, an 18-day series of courses for potential store owners. There they learned about public relations, mechanics of the ice cream machines, local advertising, and making and freezing all kinds of ice cream cakes. They also received The Shopper's Road, an in-house magazine advising them on topics ranging from travel tips, to cooking, to marketing their products to the community.
From the beginning, the Carvel Dairy Freeze Chain stressed cleanliness, hard work, and a quality, all-natural product. Tom Carvel aimed to create a family-type environment for his franchise owners. He wanted people who would work hard and were eager to learn about the retail ice cream business in order to make their individual rags to riches stories come true. A unique and important element to the Carvel story was Tom Carvel's personal involvement --from an early date--in creating commercials for the stores. His was one of the first instances in which a Chief Executive Officer of a major corporation was featured in his company's commercials. In 1955, Carvel began making his own radio commercials. As the story goes, one day while driving in New York City he heard a commercial for a new Carvel store, but the announcer did not state its exact location. Convinced he could do a better job, he drove to the radio station and re-did the commercial himself. After this incident he started doing his own commercials on a full-time basis. Tom Carvel created a distinct style with his garbled delivery and "say it once" philosophy, with the idea that you have to grab people's attention and then let the product speak for itself. Carvel eventually set up an in-house production studio and advertising agency at the Carvel Inn, where most of his television and radio commercials were made.
The use of premiums was an essential marketing component for Carvel. In 1936, he introduced the "Buy One Get One Free" offer. He also used comic books, ice cream eating contests, and a beauty pageant for young girls, called the "Little Miss Half Pint Contest," to attract children. The Carvel Corporation also participated as a corporate sponsor for events like Walt Disney's "Great Ice Odyssey," "Carvel Night at the Rodeo," and numerous promotional tie-ins with the New York Yankees baseball team. Of all the sales promotions, it was the specialty products which brought the greatest notoriety to the Carvel name. From the "Flying Saucer" ice cream sandwich and the "Papapalooza" to the holiday and character ice cream cakes, customers could always count on a quality product. There were ice cream cakes for every holiday, including a "Flower Basket" for Mother's Day, "Fudgie the Whale" for Father's Day, "Tom the Turkey" for Thanksgiving, and a "Snow Man" for Christmas. Eventually, a customer could special order an ice cream cake for any occasion, using a toll-free phone number.
The Carvel Corporation enjoyed continued success and consistent expansion marked by Tom Carvel's innovative concepts in marketing. For example, in 1956, the Hartsdale location was converted into the first ice cream supermarket. Each store remained a full-service ice cream parlor, but now had the added convenience of self-serve freezers where customers could select ice cream specialty products such as Flying Saucers, Carvelogs, Brown Bonnets, and ice cream cakes.
In 1962, the Corporation experienced a crisis. Many franchise owners had begun buying cheaper ingredients and the chain was reduced to 175 stores. This potentially meant financial catastrophe for Tom Carvel and the company because it derived its profits from selling equipment and special mixes to store owners. Carvel insisted the franchise owners had obligations to the company and its customers to provide a uniform, quality product. Furthermore, the franchise owners had agreed to purchase raw ingredients from Carvel. When the Corporation tried to enforce this agreement, the Federal Trade Commission charged Carvel with allegations of coercion and restraint of trade. In 1964, after presenting his side before the full Federal Trade Commission and the Supreme Court, he won his case.
In 1967, Carvel purchased the Westchester Town House Motel, in Yonkers, New York, and changed the name to the Carvel Inn. It was both a full-service motel and the Executive Offices of the Carvel Corporation. It was here that store owners gathered for the annual educational seminars which reinforced the ideas taught by the Carvel College.
In the 1950s Tom Carvel had also developed the franchise concept for a hamburger chain called Hubie Burger. It served hamburgers, french fries, chicken, and waffles. It is ironic that Carvel began the Hubie Burger chain because at a dairy convention in 1956, Ray Kroc asked him if he was interested in setting up the McDonald's chain. It is said that at this time Carvel felt ice cream and hamburgers did not compliment each other and declined the offer. However, Carvel claimed to have given McDonald's permission to use the basic text of his franchise contract and his building design as models. Later, Carvel acquired Dugan's Bakery. However, neither Dugan's nor Hubie Burger was very successful.
Through his strong work ethic, creativity, and perseverance, Tom Carvel built up his ice cream chain and turned his dreams into reality. His achievements were recognized in 1957 when he was awarded the Horatio Alger Award. Carvel credited his success to his father and his wife, Agnes. His father sparked his interest in chemistry and engineering and his wife worked in the first Carvel store, which allowed him time to develop the Carvel Corporation Franchise System. In 1989, he sold the Carvel Corporation to an international investment company, Investcorp, for more than 80 million dollars. Tom Carvel died in 1990. The Carvel name lives on through the Carvel Ice Cream Bakery Company, operated by Investcorp.
Scope and Content
Series 1: TOM CARVEL PERSONAL INFORMATION, 1917-1986
Includes magazine and newspaper articles about Tom Carvel's childhood, his start in the ice cream business, and how he built a successful chain of fast food ice cream supermarkets. One article of particular interest is from the Hellenic Times, dated August 21, 1975, entitled "Carvel the Marvel." It talks about his ethnic background and how it has influenced his strong work ethic. This series also contains personal photographs, 1918-1984. These include Tom Carvel playing the drums, hosting a celebrity golf tournament, promoting his business, and a variety of other personal photographs.
Series 2: FINANCIAL INFORMATION, 1969-1985
Includes annual reports from the period 1969-1985, when the Carvel Corporation was a publicly traded company. It also contains a Federal Trade Commission disclosure statement from March 1981, which explains the legal rights and obligations between the Carvel Corporation and the franchise owners.
Series 3: EDUCATIONAL INFORMATION FOR FRANCHISE OWNERS, 1954-1984
Includes materials to help the franchise owners, both new and old, improve their business and increase sales, 1954-1984. The "Why Carvel?" sales brochure is aimed at potential franchise owners. It explains the concept of the 36 flavor, 60 variety ice cream store and lists 83 reasons why a potential franchise owner would be interested in owning a Carvel franchise. In letters to store owners, 1956-1957, Tom Carvel wrote about the increases and decreases in revenue and the benefits of the educational seminars, among other topics. The Annual Educational Seminar packet is a folder containing a list of daily events and meetings, computer print-out commissary order forms, and promotional items. The collection contains an incomplete set of educational seminar packets, 1963-1977. The educational seminars reinforce the material written in the employee magazines.
Series 4: EMPLOYEE MAGAZINES, 1956-1989
Includes the Shopper's Road, Carvel News, and Carvel Way. These magazines address both store owners and customers. The magazines feature articles about store owners, general articles about the ice cream industry, and ways to improve the image of the Carvel Corporation within the community. They also feature sections intended for the customers, including "Teen Talk with Sven Teen," a section of jokes called "Have a Smile," and recipes.
Carvel News and Carvel Way focus on the Carvel franchise system and items used to increase revenue and name recognition, such as menu boards and sales promotions. In addition, the magazines talk about expansion into states like California, Florida, and Ohio. Another purpose was to boost the morale of the store owners and create a "family type atmosphere" within the corporation. They showcase new members of the "Carvel Family" who graduated from the Carvel College. A regular section was the "Dealer of the Month," which gave a brief biographical description which also describes how the dealers had increased their sales revenue.
Series 5: PUBLICITY MATERIALS, 1950-1985
Includes clippings, magazine and newspaper articles covering the Carvel Corporation, Tom Carvel, the numerous community events sponsored by the Carvel Corporation, and the ice cream industry in general. The majority of the publications are local newspapers, with a large sampling from the Herald Statesman, a Yonkers newspaper. The publications date from 1953 to 1985. The series also includes general correspondence acknowledging the use of the Carvel name.
The press clippings and newspaper articles contests sponsored by the Carvel Corporation, organizations which met at the Carvel Inn, and charitable events sponsored by the Carvel Corporation. Included are photographs of Robert F. Kennedy at the Carvel Inn in 1968. The series also includes articles about the ice cream industry. They are from the New York Times, financial magazines like Barron's, and trade publications. The articles focus on the history and continued expansion of the industry.
Series 6: ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN MATERIAL, 1957-1989
Includes advertising bulletins, formula service bulletins, and packet information for the $5,000 advertising stores. This material, 1957-1989, was used to keep franchise owners informed about the industry, the actions taken by the Carvel Corporation to assure the success of its individual franchise owners, and how the Carvel Corporation helped each of them promote their business through advertising.
The advertising bulletins are general correspondence written primarily by Tom Carvel. These bulletins inform franchise owners of industry and corporate news, modifications in daily operations (such as C.O.D. deliveries of commissary orders) and the announcement of new promotional items. They further discuss the reasons for increases in product cost and generally keep the franchise owner informed about changes in the industry.
The formula service division bulletins consist of story boards for television commercials and manuals for standard operating procedures. The manuals describe the step-by-step process and necessary ingredients for making Carvel ice cream desserts. They served to create uniformity of product and service within the chain.
The $5,000 advertising store campaign material, dating from 1971-1972, consists of a kit for preparing advertisements for local newspapers, bulletins, and special mailings. The Carvel Ice Cream Corporation stipulated that new franchise owners make a $5,000 "contribution" to be used for the advertising of their individual store. This material offers a systematic approach for promoting and increasing customer traffic from the initial grand opening onwards.
Series 7: PROMOTIONAL ITEMS, 1951-1986
Includes a variety of promotional materials for events dating from 1951-1986. Included are items such as coupons, sweepstakes, and contests; general correspondence about these promotional events; information on the Carvel comic book; inter-office and general correspondence regarding Tom Carvel's guest appearances on shows like "What's My Line" and the "David Letterman Show;" inter-office correspondence discussing the Carvel Corporation's commitment to advertising on television; and audiotape interviews with Tom Carvel.
The Carvel Corporation had both in-house and tie-in promotional events which it sponsored. The in-house events consisted of ice cream eating contests, "buy one get one free" offers, a happy birthday club, and a variety of sweepstakes with prizes ranging from a pony to a trip to Florida. The tie-ins included such events as a day with the New York Yankees and discount coupons for Walt Disney's "Great Ice Odyssey."
In July, 1966, Carvel Corporation formulated an initial concept for a comic book. It contained the general plot and gave sample drawings of a superhero-type figure, along with a villain and a flying saucer. The comic books in this series date from 1973 to1975.
In May, 1971, Carvel began advertising on television in the New York - New Jersey - Connecticut area. General correspondence was sent to the franchise owners explaining the costs and objectives, and how they could promote their individual stores in conjunction with this new advertising campaign. After the advertising campaign started, Carvel released a memo stating that sales had increased as a direct result of television advertising.
Two audiotapes of radio interviews with Tom Carvel from 1983 are included in this series. They are important because they give researchers an opportunity to hear Tom Carvel's voice, a key element in the success of his commercials.
Series 8: STORE AND EQUIPMENT RECORDS, 1945-1973
Includes patent information, store brochures, equipment catalogs, and changes in brochures. The Carvel Corporation derived the majority of its revenue from the sale of formula mixes, equipment, and leasing of the Carvel name to its franchise owners, making this information important to the Carvel story.
The patent information, 1952-1976, includes inter-office correspondence between in-house attorneys and Tom Carvel and general correspondence between Carvel, his patent attorney, and the U.S. Patent Office. The material consists of Tom Carvel's initial petition for a patent and the blueprints for his building design and advertising device. In 1976, Tom Carvel petitioned for a new patent for his building design. In general correspondence pertinent to this matter Carvel's attorney agreed with the Patent Office that the design modifications were not significant enough to warrant a new patent.
The store brochure, Carvel Franchise System: Investing in Your Future, explains how the Carvel Ice Cream Corporation derives it revenue from franchise owners and features testimonials from store owners praising the Carvel Corporation. Changes in sales brochures show that ultimately the reasons to own a Carvel Franchise expanded from 83 to 123.
This series also includes equipment order catalogs which give the order number, a title name for each piece of equipment and a photograph, and take-home dessert menus with enclosed coupon sheets.
Information regarding Carvel's "Lease Back Land Offer," 1955, demonstrates one way the Carvel Corporation attempted to expand its franchise business. It includes a classified advertisement offering individuals an opportunity to purchase land, build a Carvel Franchise, and lease it back to the Carvel Corporation. There are numerous inquires from potential investors who wanted further information.
Series 9: VENDING VEHICLES, 1958-1961
Includes patent information and sales brochures for Carvel's mobile ice cream vending vehicles, 1958-1961. The patent material consists of inter-office and general correspondence between Tom Carvel, his patent attorney, and the U.S. Patent Office. It includes Tom Carvel's petition for patents and the blueprint drawings for his vending vehicles. One of the sales brochures, "This is a Carvehicle Franchise," lists the customized features of the vending vehicles and the reasons why someone would want to own a Carvehicle franchise. Also included is a trade journal article from the June 1958 issue of Ice Cream Field which discusses the creation of the Carvehicle Corporation, a subsidiary of the Carvel Corporation.
Series 10: STORE ADDRESS INFORMATION, 1980s
Agents involved in the distribution of equipment and supplies to the franchise owners, including their names, addresses, and telephone numbers. The series also contains the store books, which list the store number, owner, address, and length of time in business. The material dates from the late 1980s.
Series 11: PHOTOGRAPHS, 1936-1985
Is arranged in the same order as the written material, 1936-ca.1980. The photographs support the printed material in the previous series. They include views of conventions, promotional events and products, stores, vending vehicles, and production facilities. Box 15 in the collection contains a variety of duplicate photographs.
The convention photographs date from 1956 to1965. The majority are of franchise owners at the annual convention dinner celebration. Other convention photographs include demonstrations of equipment and products and the crowning of "Miss Flying Saucer."
The promotional photographs, 1939-ca.1970, are primarily of events, beginning with the 1939 unveiling of Carvel's ice cream freezer-dispenser. The importance of Carvel-sponsored community events is apparent through the scenes of children and ice cream eating contests. Also, there are examples of promotional tie-ins like the "Flying Saucer" frisbee.
The store photographs date from 1936-ca.1970, and include shots of the exterior, interior and store employees. Some of the photographs are of grand opening celebrations; these show the transformation over time from the free standing, all-glass-front store to stores in strip shopping centers.
The vending vehicle photographs, 1937-ca.1970, include a mobile vending scooter dated 1957, mobile vending vehicles from the late 1950s-1960s, and delivery trucks from the early 1970s.
The production facility photographs date from around 1940. They include views of factory workers assembling the freezing and dispensing equipment which is sold to franchisees. The majority of the photographs are of equipment and dispensing components.
Miscellaneous photographs include promotional photographs for movies and golf and three photographs of Carvel storefronts from the set of the movie Outrageous Fortune.
Series 12: DUGAN'S BAKERY AND HUBIE BURGER RECORDS, 1950s-1960s
Includes materials regarding Tom Carvel's other retail ventures. Dugan's Bakery was acquired by the Carvel Ice Cream Corporation in the 1950s or 1960s. The only information regarding the bakery consists of two photographs: one showing a Dugan's delivery man and the other a tractor trailer.
Hubie Burger material includes letters, a store location index, a standard operating manual, and a variety of photographs and menus. The store location index, from the late 1950s, consists of photocopies of photographs of some of the Hubie Burger franchise owners. An accompanying listing shows that not all of the stores are part of this index. The 1959 standard operation procedure manual gives details on every aspect of owning a Hubie Burger Franchise: information on inventory, advertising, maintenance of equipment, written descriptions of the equipment, payment terms, and recipes. Also included are drawings of the Hubie Burger uniforms for men and women.
Series 13: NON-CARVEL FRANCHISE INFORMATION, 1957-1988
Annual reports and informational materials from other restaurant franchise chains, including are photographs from the 1950s showing non-Carvel ice cream stores using Carvel equipment.
Series 14: AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS, 1930s-1995
The audiocassettes feature oral histories with Agnes, Linda, and Pam Carvel, Frank Hubner, Herbert Roth, William Shick, and Stanley Townend. The video component to the history of Carvel contains compilation reels of commercials, training videos, and Tom Carvel appearing on television programs. The videos in the collection are copies (mastered then duplicated for reference) made from original materials loaned to the Archives Center from the Carvel Corporation.
These records were generously donated to the Archives Center by Mrs. Agnes Carvel, in May 1993.
The Archives Center holds many collections related to ice cream and the food industry including:
revised by: Jennifer Snyder, 2002