PODCAST: Ben Van Leeuwen Gives The Scoop On His Ice Cream Shop’s Global Expansion


PODCAST: Ben Van Leeuwen Gives The Scoop On His Ice Cream Shop’s Global Expansion


Van Leeuwen Ice Cream co-founder Ben Van Leeuwen joins us for a candid episode, discussing the New York City-based chain’s expansion, how it has handled inflation, and why American consumer habits are perfectly aligned with expensive, high-end ice cream.

“In 1980, the average food spend out of home in the U.S. was 20 cents on the dollar. In 2020, it surpassed 50 cents. At the same time, the top 20% to 30% earners became 30% wealthier, and they concentrated in cities even more,” he said on the show. “So you have an environment that is ripe for the Van Leeuwens, the Sweetgreens, the Cavas.”

Van Leeuwen, which began in 2008 out of a truck, is on track to reach 60 stores by the end of the year — a considerable jump from the approximately 20 at the end of 2021. It also sells ice cream wholesale for $12 a pint.

On the episode, Ben Van Leeuwen discusses how he and his co-founders — his brother, Pete, and Laura O’Neill — scaled the company, which has involved taking on private equity funding and preparing to open its first international store in Singapore.

“Sometimes I hear these podcasts, where the founders are like, ‘I just wanted to make yummy ice cream and I turned around one day, and we were worth you know, $200M’– and it’s kind of bullshit,” he said. ”It takes an enormous amount of effort because there’s so many people, really hard-working, smart people — like us — like trying to do this.”

Bisnow’s audio series, Bisnow Reports, examines every facet of the international commercial real estate industry — from the murky future of retail and office to real estate’s reckoning with diversity to the effects of climate change on the built world, and so much more. You can subscribe on iTunesSpotify and Amazon Music, or click below to listen in your browser.

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