Ben & Jerry’s, the socially conscious ice cream chain, is planning to open one of its scoop shops in downtown Asheville.

A Ben & Jerry’s franchisee has pulled construction permits to open at 19 Haywood Street in downtown Asheville. That’s near Woolworth Walk, and across the street from Miles Building. (Hat tip to loyal reader Daniel for the news tip.) It’s also just a few doors down from Urban Outfitters, a national chain whose opening in Asheville several years ago sparked Asheville’s “buy local” movement known as Asheville Grown.

It’s also ironic that news of the Ben & Jerry’s plan for downtown comes as we’re celebrating our locally owned independent businesses as part of Love Asheville Go Local Week.

Two Vermont hippies started Ben & Jerry’s as a socially conscious business in the 1980s, and the company maintains that mission even after its owners sold out to Unilever in 2000. (Ben & Jerry’s is now a part of the conglomerate Unilever.)

According to a 2015 New York Times story, Ben & Jerry’s offers its lowest-paid workers more than twice the national minimum wage, uses cage-free eggs and is a B Corporation, a voluntary certification that states the company strives to uphold high social and environmental standards. (New Belgium Brewing is also a B Corp, for example.) Ben & Jerry’s supports gay marriage and has ice cream flavors intended to raise awareness of climate change.

The company also continues to fend off competition by offering new products, such as Greek yogurt and ice cream bars, as well as vegan and low fat offerings.

Still, Ben & Jerry’s plans for downtown Asheville will certainly activate those forces fighting against the “chaining” of downtown.

15 Comments

  1. I think it’s interesting that despite great local success and each having multiple locations, neither The Hop nor Ultimate has attempted to open a downtown location. I wonder if they know something about the economics of the situation that these newer arrivals don’t.

  2. Ben and Jerry’s is owned by Unilever, it is hardly a progressive ice cream company anymore. Considering that Kilwin’s, Chocolate Fetish and Donatelli’s are in the same general area, it’s a bit of desert overload. And what’s going to happen to Ad Lib now, a shop that’s been around for years?

  3. “This is not Pigeon Forge.”

    Funny you should say that. Coincidentally, Gatlinburg is where the owners have their other store(s)…

  4. So will the chain police get upset about another chain moving into downtown Asheville like they sometimes do, or will there be silence like there sometimes is because it is considered a cool chain?

    • RobotDanceMonkey1975 says:

      Ben & Jerry’s is delicious ice cream! My bet is that a majority will express tepid indifference, but will certainly indulge once it’s here and pretend that there was always a Ben & Jerry’s there! It’s not like it’s replacing anything there anyway except a closed off enclave.

    • Hippies, Hipsters and “activist” brands get a waiver.

      • Yep. People hate chains downtown, unless it is a chain they like — say Mellow Mushroom because it has that hipster vibe.

        Trader Joe’s displaced THREE locally owned businesses and not a peep from the “unchain” crowd. Granted Trader Joe’s isn’t technically downtown but it is close enough and right on the periphery that you’d think there would at least be some outrage about the local businesses that got evicted so that an out of town chain could move in.

        I can understand the concern about chains in downtown in theory (even if in its previous heyday downtown had lots of chains — Ivey’s, Sears, Woolworth’s J&S, etc) but the selective outrage by the Unchain Asheville crowd really undercuts their argument.

  5. What are the names of locally owned ice cream businesses in Asheville? I’m new here.

  6. Shannon Watkins says:

    I would much rather see Sunshine Sammies, Ultimate Ice Cream, or The Hop in this location. Very disappointing. This is not Pigeon Forge.

  7. Are we allowed to love local ice cream and be excited about this at the same time?

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