Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were childhood friends from New York. While Greenfield finished college, he found himself unable to make his way into medical school. Cohen dropped out of school. Then they both decided to complete a correspondence course on ice cream making from Pennsylvania State University's Creamery.

Cohen has severe anosmia that means a lack of a sense of smell or taste. Due to this fact, he relied on "mouth feel" and texture to provide variety in his diet. By the way, this led to the company's trademark chunks being mixed in with their ice cream. With a $12,000 investment, two friends opened an ice cream parlor in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont in 1978. A year later they marked their anniversary by holding the first-ever free cone day, now an international annual celebration.

In 1980 they rented space in an old mill in Burlington and began packing their ice cream in pints. In 1981, the first Ben & Jerry's franchise opened on Route 7 in Shelburne, Vermont. In 1983, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was used to build “the world’s largest ice cream sundae” (27,102 pounds) in St. Albans, Vermont.

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