Despite the outdoor weather nearing the temperature of the treats, hundreds flocked into Ben & Jerry’s during its grand opening for ice cream and shakes.
Ben & Jerry’s officially opened its doors at 159 Temple St. next to the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale on Friday afternoon. The owners, Holly and Dan Lajoie, have shared a spousal dream of opening a Ben & Jerry’s for 20 years, and during Thursday’s soft opening, that dream came true. Before development began, the premises remained vacant for nearly a decade before the roughly two-month construction process converted the site into Connecticut’s fifth Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop.
“It’s very welcoming and it has quite a variety,” New Haven resident Briana Patterson said. “It’s really good.”
Ben & Jerry’s serves 32 flavors including Bourbon Brown Butter, Patterson’s choice of Salted Caramel Blondie Core as well as P.B. & Cookies — a nondairy, vegan option. Along with serving ice cream in cups and waffle cones, the shop sells shakes, smoothies and sundaes.
Prices for the treats range from $3.99 for a kids-size ice cream cup, $6.24 for a small waffle cone and $6.99 for a large shake. Though ice cream at Arethusa Farm Dairy on Chapel Street generally costs less, it was serving 17 different flavors on Jan. 20 compared to Ben & Jerry’s 32 flavors. Treat prices at Ashley’s Ice Cream on York Street, which serves 34 flavors of ice cream, were also generally cheaper than Ben & Jerry’s, but to a lesser degree than Arethusa’s prices.
Situated alongside the Omni, the Lajoies said the hotel is doing everything it can to help the new business. During the shop’s grand opening, Omni workers announced the event to their guests, which included 500 high school students attending a Yale Model United Nations event. With full capacity in the Omni every weekend, Ben & Jerry’s can expect to see new customers every week as well, Holly Lajoie said.
The shop brought in Omni guests and Model U.N. students from Staten Island: Katarina Rikic and Nadia Offendel. Though they said they did not have a nearby Ben & Jerry’s shop in their communities, they recognized the brand from the “pints” they purchased at grocery stores.
“I knew Ben & Jerry’s was good from the get-go,” Offendel said.
The scoop shops bring in little revenue for the corporation compared to the prepackaged ice cream sold in stores, so the corporation benefits from scoop shops mostly through the marketing they provide, Holly Lajoie said. Evidently, the marketing works both ways.
Ben & Jerry’s franchises many of its shops, and Holly Lajoie said that it is picky about choosing shop owners and locations. It currently has 285 scoop shops nationwide.
For the Lajoies, who live in Wallingford, Connecticut, and have been married for 19 years, Ben & Jerry’s has been a large part of their lives. During his childhood, Dan Lajoie would eat at Ben & Jerry’s when he visited his cousins in Freeport, Maine.
A year before the couple married, Dan Lajoie told his wife that his dream was to open a Ben & Jerry’s during his life, Holly Lajoie said. So last January, the two searched for a location to house their business and settled on 159 Temple St. immediately.
“It was the right time and right place to be,” Dan Lajoie said.
Starting in November, Dan Lajoie, who works as a general contractor and electrician, painted walls, routed wires and installed flooring from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. in the store after finishing his day job renovating the Beinecke and Sterling Memorial libraries.
Holly Lajoie, who recently retired from working as a dental hygienist, will run the store — which is open from noon to 10 p.m. — full time.
Many job seekers applied for positions at Ben & Jerry’s, Holly Lajoie said, and the couple hired eight part-time employees — though that number may change in case the shop becomes busier, she said.
In New Haven, seven businesses sell packaged Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, according to the company’s website.