Greek American businessman, Tom Carvel (born Athanasios Karvelas), created America’s first ice cream franchise and is well-known as the inventor of soft serve ice cream.
A flat tire on his truck led to his successful career as a early immigrant to the USA.
Tom Carvel was born on July 14, 1906 in Athens, Greece. In 1910, when Tom was only four years old, his parents decided to leave what was then impoverished Greece for Connecticut in America.
The potter allowed Carvel to hook into his store’s electricity. Two years later, in 1936, Carvel bought the pottery store, converted it into a roadside stand, and permanently established himself as the nation’s first retailer of soft serve ice cream.
That same year, he patented a “no air pump” super-low temperature ice cream machine, developed a secret soft serve ice cream formula and introduced the marketing concept “Buy one get one free.”
In 1939, Carvel built the first soft serve ice cream machine.
As Carvel began selling his patented machinery to other stores, he quickly realised that he could sell not only his machinery, but also his experience.
The creator of franchising
For a flat fee and a percentage of the profits, Carvel began teaching independent store owners the ins and outs and allowed them to market ice cream under the Carvel name. Carvel cultivated this relatively unknown idea called “franchising,” and opened 25 stores by the early 1950’s.
On October 21, 1990, Carvel passed away at age 84. Although he was married, he had no children and his death led to litigation between his relatives and his lawyers.
He left behind him a big fortune, a huge brand with 400 stores around the world, and a myth of entrepreneurship and business strategy taught to this day in business seminars in America. It all started with an accident, a flat tire, which Tom managed to reverse, turning the “American Dream” into reality.