America’s Oldest Ice Cream Company Calls Pennsylvania Home
A fifth-generation family business in Philadelphia, Bassetts Ice Cream is proudly known as America’s oldest ice cream company. This full-service frozen dessert distributor exclusively uses Pennsylvania milk in its products, and distributes ice cream around the nation and the world. This month, we spoke to Alex Bassett Strange, an Account Executive at Bassetts Ice Cream who is the sixth generation in his family to join the company.
What does your business specialize in, and who are your clients?
Bassetts Ice Cream got its start back in 1861, when my great-great-great grandfather started making ice cream by mule power in New Jersey. He would take his finished product to the farmers markets in Philadelphia, and due to popular demand, he opened a shop at 5th and Market Streets in 1885. When the Reading Terminal Market opened in 1892, he opened a retail store there, and we’ve been there ever since.
Some things have changed over the years, but the 125-year-old marble countertop remains at this store. We pride ourselves on our rich history and heritage, and the recipe we use for our ice cream today was developed by my great grandfather.
In addition to our store at Reading Terminal Market, we sell to independent dipping parlors, restaurants, country clubs, and retirement communities. We also have an international presence: thanks to a connection made at an international business networking event, we have been selling ice cream in China since 2008.
As of June 2017, we started selling our ice cream in Korea. This stemmed from a fellow merchant at Reading Terminal Market sharing that they might have an opportunity to bring Bassetts Ice Cream to Korea. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture connected us with the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) authorized trade representative in Korea, who helped us launch our business there. DCED’s authorized trade representatives (ATRs) are housed within DCED’s Office of International Business Development and were instrumental in collaborating with Bassetts to review the local rules and regulations in Korea, including its manufacturing facility registration at Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.
What does your company do differently that sets it apart?
Bassetts Ice Cream is a Philadelphia-style ice cream. While most ice creams are made with egg yolk, our ice cream is made without it, which leads to an emphasis on the taste of fresh cream. This style of ice cream also features vanilla bean specks in our vanilla flavor, which sets us apart from other brands.
“With the resources available and the community here [in Philadelphia], we are well-poised to expand into other markets across the country and globe.”
As America’s oldest ice cream company, we have been in business for 156 years. While we stay true to the brand’s heritage, we’re also constantly innovating. We are excited to roll out a new pint package later this year. Whether it’s adding digital menus at our storefront or adding new flavors like Pomegranate Blueberry Chocolate Chunk, we carefully consider every change we make to ensure that it will keep the business running for generations to come.
Why are you proud to be a Pennsylvania small business owner?
Our company is PA Preferred, and all of our dairy comes from Pennsylvania farmers. We also have a warehouse in Pennsylvania and ship our products to customers across the state.
Philadelphia is a historic hub for ice cream. Many old school ice cream brands and innovations have come from this city. If you’re in the ice cream industry, Pennsylvania is the place to be. With the resources available and the community here, we are well-poised to expand into other markets across the country and globe.
To learn more about Bassetts Ice Cream, visit bassettsicecream.com and them on Facebook and Twitter. Learn more about Pennsylvania’s dairy industry by visiting dced.pa.gov. To stay up-to-date on all Pennsylvania news, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter.
Alexander Bassett Strange spent his summers in college learning about Bassetts Ice Cream Company by working in various roles, from scooping ice cream at the Bassetts Ice Cream Store in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, to driving wholesale delivery routes in the Bassetts Ice Cream trucks, production, and office work. After graduating and spending two years with Hormel Foods, Alex came back to Philadelphia to work for Bassetts Ice Cream. In 2017, Alex and his cousin Eric Bassett attended the Penn State Ice Cream Short Course. Today, Alex assumes many roles in the business including sales, accounting, R&D, and special projects.