Legends & Legacies View More

Irvine Robbins, Ice Cream Innovator

Published: 6/20/2012

On the first day of summer, we can't stop thinking about ice cream… especially all 31 flavors at Baskin-Robbins. Originally published May 2008 on Obit-Mag.com.

Before there was Ben and Jerry’s, there was Baskin-Robbins. Their 31 flavors burst free from the traditional triad of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, and introduced timely, popular ice cream concoctions like Pink Bubblegum, Strawberry Cheesecake and Baseball Nut. Irvine Robbins was the entrepreneur who opened the first ice cream shop of this classic American brand in 1945.

Strawberry Ice Cream Cone (Flickr Creative Commons/TheCulinaryGeek)

Strawberry Ice Cream Cone (Flickr Creative Commons/TheCulinaryGeek)



Burton Baskin, Robbins’ brother-in-law, joined him three years after the first ice cream shop opened in Glendale, California. As a teenager, Robbins worked at his father’s dairy in Tacoma, Washington, where he experimented with names of sundaes and methods of marketing ice cream from a specialty standpoint. After graduating from the University of Washington and serving in the Army during the Second World War, Robbins tested his hunch that the nation was ready for ice cream experimentation.

By 1953, Robbins and his partner sold their eight stores to their managers and started what might be described as an ice cream laboratory, a think tank of ice cream theory that produced over a thousand flavors filling Baskin-Robbins’ 31-flavor roster over the years. The flavors were regional, seasonal, filled with nuts, ribbons of caramel and fudge.

Some hits over the years:

-Pralines and Cream (1970)
-Pistachio Almond (1964)
-Lemon Custard (1945)
-Banana Nut (1950)
-Rainbow Sherbet (1972)

Robbins retired in 1978, at which point Baskin-Robbins had over 1600 stores around the world. He admitted to eating three or four scoops of ice cream a day and reportedly had an ice cream cone shaped pool. He loved ice cream, particularly his favorite creation, Jamoca Almond Fudge.



Jamoca Almond Fudge, Baskin-Robbins (Flickr Creative Commons/TheDeliciousLife)

Jamoca Almond Fudge, Baskin-Robbins (Flickr Creative Commons/TheDeliciousLife)



Robbins' death was marked by 31 seconds of silence on May 9, 2008 at 3:31 PM, according to a Baskin-Robbins press release.

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