Tampa Bay’s wait for fresh-packed pints of Phish Food and Chubby Hubby is almost over.
Two new Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops will open on both sides of Tampa Bay over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, the stores’ franchise owners announced Tuesday.
First is a new shop at Midtown Tampa, the massive mixed-use development just south of Interstate 275 near N Dale Mabry Boulevard. That shop will host a grand opening celebration from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 14 with cake and ice cream samples, music, arts and crafts, face painting, prizes and more.
The next day, Jan. 15, will see grand opening festivities starting at 10 a.m. for another Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop at 409 Mandalay Ave. in Clearwater Beach.
“We’ve spent the past three years identifying the right spots,” said Antonio McBroom, one of the franchise partners behind the two stores. “This Midtown development is ideal for an in-city, cool, state-of-the-art-designed store. And we wanted Clearwater Beach because ice cream, the beach, tourists — we felt like it’d be a great mix to get us started.”
The stores will be among the few Black-owned Ben and Jerry’s franchises in the country. McBroom and his partners own eight other Ben and Jerry’s stores between Houston and Raleigh, N.C., and at one point had a store in Melbourne.
Opening on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend was always the goal, McBroom said.
“Dr. King really inspired our co-founders, Ben and Jerry,” he said. “They lean on his inspiration as far as what made them, back in 1978 when they started this company, really make sure we had a three-part mission statement — that it wasn’t just about making good ice cream or being profitable, but being at the forefront of social justice and equity. That’s what Dr. King stood for.”
“We’re excited to be in Tampa because it’s a market that has a great history of equity and justice, and we feel that we can really make some substantial impact in the community,” he said. “We’ve got a vision of opening several more locations throughout the market. But we feel great about these two.”
Ben & Jerry’s has been the target of some controversy this fall after Florida officials considered adding its parent company, Unilever, to the state’s list of “Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel” after the ice cream brand announced it would stop selling its products in the West Bank and Gaza. The company has some $139 million in investments tied to Unilever, which the state could divest in 2022.
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Tampa Mayor Jane Castor is scheduled to attend the Midtown opening, a spokesperson said.
Those planning to attend either grand opening celebration are asked to RSVP via bit.ly/BandJTampaClearwater.