Bassett’s Ice Cream

President Obama recently stopped in at the Reading Terminal Market for a taste from America's oldest ice cream company. Since 1885, Bassett’s Ice Cream, a family owned business, has been a Philadelphia tradition.

Lewis Dubois Bassett, a Quaker school teacher and farmer, began making ice cream in his Salem, NJ backyard using a mule-turned churn in 1861. In 1885, he began selling his ice cream from a location at 5th & Market Streets in Philadelphia. When the Reading Terminal Market opened in 1893, Bassett’s Ice Cream opened a retail store and moved production into the basement of the terminal.

As a fifth-generation family business, Bassett’s Ice Cream is the last remaining original merchant in Philadelphia’s historic Reading Terminal Market.

When the recession hit last year, the company struggled to meet its projected sales goals. After careful deliberations with family, friends and associates on how to improve the situation, it was suggested that the company consider exporting ice cream to international markets.

The last time Bassett's made an international sale was about 50 years ago, when they produced and shipped 50 tubs of borscht sherbet for the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

But this time around, Bassett’s is not just shipping a few tubs of ice cream to the U.S. embassy; they are producing and shipping large quantities in shipping containers to the fastest and biggest developing consumer market – the People’s Republic of China.

Initially, the company was referred to the Wharton School Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Philadelphia by the SBA, where students conducted market research for the client. Strange was excited about the report that was compiled for his company, but did not know how to go about implementing the plan.

It was then that Strange was referred to Holly Meng, Senior Specialist of International Business at the Temple University Small business Development Center (SBDC). With over 18 years of importing/exporting experience in China, Meng provided many practical solutions ranging from selecting a distributor to establishing relationships with brokers in China for Bassett’s Ice Cream.

Meng's expertise in the Chinese market was remarkable, as she was able to use her linguistic skills to advocate on behalf of the client when dealing with brokers in China. She was also able to make valuable connections for the client. After receiving and acting on the SBDC’s assistance from Meng, Bassett’s Ice Cream is now sold in over 40 supermarket stores and restaurants in North China.

In addition, as Strange was about to visit China, the SBDC International Business Specialist prepared him by extensively educating him about the culture and consumer behavior in China. Strange’s trip to China was very productive and the advice he received from Meng was valuable, as it came in handy during his trip.

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President Obama stopped by Bassett's Ice Cream at Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market in September 2010.