Irvine (Irv) Robbins, co-founder of Baskin-Robbins passed away late Monday in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 90 years old. Robbins, and his brother-in-law Burton (Burt) Baskin, founded the Baskin-Robbins ice cream chain in 1945, which today is the world’s largest chain of ice cream specialty shops with more than 5,800 stores in 34 countries.

According to Srinivas Kumar, Chief Brand Officer, Baskin-Robbins Worldwide, “All of the Baskin-Robbins employees, franchisees and licensees are saddened by the loss of Irv Robbins. Along with his brother-in-law Burt Baskin, Irv was a pioneer in both the ice cream and franchising business and leaves behind a great and enduring legacy.”

Kumar continues, “Irv’s passion and his vision–we sell fun, not just ice cream–helped to create an iconic American brand that is now universally loved and respected around the world. His dream and love of ice cream put smiles on millions of faces and we are honored to continue his tradition of providing guests with irresistible flavors and treats.”

To honor Irv Robbins, Baskin-Robbins invites ice cream lovers across the globe to keep Irv and his family in their thoughts and prayers and to honor his memory with 31 seconds of silence on Friday, May 9, 2008 at 3:31 p.m. local time.

Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins had a long history with ice cream. As a teen, Robbins worked in his father’s ice cream store, while Baskin produced ice cream with his own machine for his fellow troops during World War II. Following the war, the two ice cream-loving entrepreneurs capitalized on America’s love of ice cream, but opted to pursue separate ice cream business ventures. The concept of Baskin-Robbins was created when Robbins opened the first shop, Snowbird, in Glendale, Calif. in 1945. The shop featured 21 flavors and emphasized high quality ice cream sold in a fun, personalized atmosphere. Baskin later opened Burton’s in Pasadena, California, in 1946, and by 1948, their businesses had grown to a chain of six stores.

The ice cream chain became known as Baskin-Robbins in 1953 when the founders joined forces and decided to create a uniform identity and image. Baskin and Robbins consolidated their stores under the name Baskin-Robbins 31 Ice Cream, with the “31” concept, offering a new ice cream flavor for every day of the month. The founders placed a giant 31 outside of every store, ringed with pink and brown polka dots, representing chocolate and cherries, to promote their variety of delicious flavors. The company’s flavor library includes more than 1,000 flavors including popular favorites Jamoca Almond Fudge, Robbins’ favorite, and Pralines ‘n Cream, which was developed by Robbins and his wife Shirley in their home kitchen.

In the process of opening new stores, the founders pioneered the food franchising business. According to Robbins, they realized that each store, to maintain the high standards, would require someone with a proprietary interest in running the operation. Today, Baskin-Robbins still operates using the franchise model created by Baskin and Robbins. The ice cream chain continued to grow and by 1949, there were more than 40 stores in southern California.

By the 1950s, Baskin-Robbins expanded throughout California and by the mid-1960’s, the company had become an ice cream empire with more than 400 stores throughout the United States. Robbins remained with the company until he retired in the 1970s.

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