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North Hills Monthly

Bruster’s Celebrating 30 Years of Sweet Success

Jun 30, 2019 12:25PM ● By Vanessa Orr

When founder Bruce Reed started the first Bruster’s Real Ice Cream in Bridgewater, PA, back in 1989, he had no plans to expand the business beyond his local neighborhood.

“Bruce was from a food-service family; his dad started a small restaurant in Bridgewater, PA,” explained CEO Jim Sahene. “When Bruce’s sister was looking for a job, he decided that they should open an ice cream shop. And now look where we are!”

Fast-forward 30 years later, and Bruster’s has nearly 200 locations across the U.S., as well as stores in South Korea and Guyana, Africa. The company boasts more than 150 made-from-scratch recipes, and at least 24 premium flavors are prepared fresh daily in its stores.

According to Sahene, one of the keys to the ice cream maker’s success is its proprietary mix, which is produced exclusively at its dairy plant in Titusville, PA. “The product, which is never deep frozen, is shipped fresh to stores—we call it cow to cone,” he explained. “We control it from the time it is made until the customer gets it, so it’s always fresh.”

But it takes more than that for a company to last for three decades. “Our product is the best ice cream in America today, but we don’t believe that a great product is good enough,” said Sahene. “We have a unique group of franchisees and employees who provide great service and ensure that customers have a good experience. We hear this from our customers time and time again.

“We remind our employees—customers don’t come to us hungry; they come to us happy,” he continued. “They are usually celebrating something, whether that’s getting through a Monday, or a baseball win, or the first or last day of school. It’s our job to make sure that customer is still happy when they leave our store.”

Obviously, this reminder works. Sahene said that Bruster’s is experiencing tremendous sales growth, marking its highest average sales unit volume in its 30-year history.

While the bottom line is important, Bruster’s also believes in creating a culture where its employees can succeed through its Mentoring Tomorrow’s Leaders Today program. 

“This is really one of the coolest parts of the company; we didn’t start out with this in mind, but it evolved with our employees,” said Sahene. “We attract a lot of first-time workers, including 16-year-old high school kids, so we work with very impressionable young adults. We have a great opportunity to mentor them, and to teach them basic work skills. Our franchise owners support and encourage them, especially since they often spend more time at work than with their parents.”

Sahene says that many store owners go to their employees’ high school graduations, ball games, and even college graduations. “Our operators embrace this simple concept and take it very seriously,” he added. “A lot of them say that impacting the lives of these young adults is their favorite part of the Bruster’s culture.

“We have incredible franchisees who deliver on the brand promise,” he continued. “They love the product, they love the kids they work with, and they love their customers. And that’s why it works.”

Celebrating the Big Day

On July 13, Bruster’s will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in a number of ways, including introducing two new Founder’s Creations systemwide.

“The first new product is a sea salt caramel ice cream with almonds,” said Sahene. “The second is a peanut butter banana sundae, which is to die for.”

At the original store in Bridgewater, Bruster’s will be offering 1989 pricing, with 90-cent small cones from 4 p.m. to close on July 13. It will also be holding an ice cream eating contest as well as other events. 

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