Tiny Watkins Glen, NY (population 1,860) might not seem like a likely site for the newest Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop. But Jim Guild, who has been buying, renovating, and opening businesses in Watkins Glen for over 30 years, thought the village could handle one. “We needed a brand name on our main street,” he told a crowd of about 60 at the store’s grand opening on Tuesday, June 10. “I had to convince the Ben & Jerry’s people that we had enough foot traffic, so we took surveys and ran the numbers, and they quickly got on board.”
Watkins Glen lies at the southern end of Seneca Lake, a melted glacier that is 38 miles from north to south and over 600 feet at its deepest point. It is also in a wine-growing region, and it has a long history of sports car racing at a nearby track. Between May and November, it can be packed with tourists.
Guild owns several businesses in Watkins, including Famous Brands Outlet, a large clothing and outdoor store. One corner of the commercial block that had been Teemley’s grocery store wasn’t doing well, so he’s giving it another chance as a Ben & Jerry’s.
Like other townies, Guild knows that there are many days when nothing is happening in Watkins Glen. The village had fallen on hard times when he moved there, and the success of Famous Brands has been part of its rebirth. “Ben & Jerry’s is a fantastic company and we love their social mission,” said Guild, who donated $5,000 to the Schuyler County Animal Shelter as part of the celebration.
The Schuyler County Administrator and the priest of the local Episcopal Church spoke, and then they donned tie-dyed aprons and scooped free ice cream for about 80 people. It was Free Cone Day in Watkins Glen, and the whole thing was so sweet that it made your teeth hurt, but that is what Ben & Jerry’s is all about.
Jim Guild (speaking), son Jamie (store manager, holding baby), and the scoop shop staff get ready to cut the ribbon.