Dublin is an affluent suburb of Columbus with about 50,000 residents. Lines of guests stretched through the door from the outset, and it seemed as though the store was going to cut it. “I felt like if it worked in Dublin, Ohio, then we can find other Dublin, Ohios across the country,” Lowe recalls.
Then, the brand got a call from Brooklyn’s Foragers Market, a gourmet grocer that’s since closed and moved to Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.
They wanted to sell Jeni’s pints. Could the company ship them in bulk like they did individually to consumers?
That’s when Lowe picked up the phone. His first order of business in July 2009 was to stop letting organic interest solely knock on Jeni’s door. Lowe started making outbound calls and trying to get pints on high-end shelves.
At first, he says, retailers were resistant to Jeni’s $10 price point—a reflection of the brand’s high COGs and its direct shipping. “They’d say $10? Nobody is going to pay $10 for a pint of ice cream,” Lowe says.
The early white whale, so to speak, was Dean & DeLuca. Lowe figured if Jeni’s could get into the iconic purveyor’s stores it could use the point as a badge to entice others. “We started every other conversation with, ‘we’re carried at Dean & DeLuca. We’d like to be carried by you as well,” Lowe says.
Jeni’s took off after that. Reshipments flowed and the brand hired a sales lead to answer and return calls Lowe no longer could. That employee is still with Jeni’s today.
Lowe and the team turned attention to scoop shops themselves—what the layout should look like, how big the freezer needed to be, how many dipping cabinets each had to include. Ultimately, Jeni’s landed on three formats: a small, 400-square-foot model built for food halls; an inline street retail design fit for neighborhoods, like Chicago’s West Loop; and a unit ready for lifestyle centers. “We kept building the team with people who had experience in their particular area of expertise who were smarter about those things than Jeni or I, or Charly. Gradually over time we kept figuring out a model that worked,” Lowe says.
In 2013, Lowe led the company’s initial effort to become a Certified B corporation, opening the brand to an audit to meet B Lab’s “highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.”
Creating and fostering culture has been one of Lowe’s consistent aims. This includes “Jeni’s Sabbatical Program,” where all employees earn one month of paid-time off for every three years on the job. Essentially, if you stick around three years, you get 30 days to disconnect and disengage from the business. Three years later, you can do it all over again.