Charlie Bertram has a serious fondness for Baskin-Robbins’ Jamocha® almond fudge ice cream. “My wife and I grew up dating with that flavor, and it’s still our favorite flavor to this day.”
These days, as owner of a Baskin-Robbins franchise in Shelbyville, Kentucky, Bertram can eat his fill.
An Army veteran who specialized in nuclear missile communications, Bertram purchased the franchise in 2014 in large part because of the financial incentives offered to qualified, honorably discharged military veterans–a waiver of the 20-year initial franchise fee of $25,000 on the first restaurant and reduced royalty rates for five years, including zero royalties the first two years.
“I was searching online for business opportunities, and then I started looking for military incentives, and Baskin-Robbins popped up first. And after seeing Baskin-Robbins’ name, of course, that pretty much sells itself.”
The incentives sealed the deal. “Two years royalty free, that’s a huge savings, and everyone knows the first two or three years in business are the most difficult part. That gives you the time to get on your feet and get everything going.”
Bertram has put his military training to good use in his new role as business owner. “Communication is key in any business, and you’re taught in the military, for instance, how to tell someone how to do something properly so that you don’t have to keep doing it over and over.”
Fellow veteran Ken Lewis, who has more than 20 years of service in the Army and Army Reserve, was lured into franchise ownership by his wife, who already owned a Baskin-Robbins franchise in Newport News, Virginia. “She liked it so much and when she heard about the veterans’ opportunities, she wanted to get another store. With the veterans’ incentives, it made a lot of sense to me too.”
Lewis called the $25,000 credit on franchise fees “huge.” Though he currently works full-time at a corporation that manufactures avionics and other aerospace products, “someday I’ll retire, and then I’ll have a place to go to work.”
Becoming a business owner didn’t intimidate him. “One thing I learned through the Army is if you put your mind to something and try hard, you can probably do just about anything. When you buy a franchise, Baskin-Robbins gives you all the tools you need to be in the ice cream business.”
Lewis, who “pretty much traveled the world” in the military, particularly enjoys meeting new people at his shop. But he’s also amused by his regular customers.
“We give taste samples of ice cream on Baskin-Robbins’ pink spoons. We have regular customers who come in and they’ll have a few samples — but they always end up buying their same favorite flavor every time. You know when they walk in what they’re going to get.” Lewis himself loves Very Berry Strawberry.
Both Lewis and Bertram find themselves talking to other veterans about the Baskin-Robbins’ opportunity. “A lot of them want to do similar things,” said Lewis.
He plans to retire from the Reserve in the next year or two. “My Baskin-Robbins shop will be something I can fall right into because it’s already set up and running. I can see running a store for a very long time. The Baskin-Robbins name has been around forever, it seems. Everybody knows it. Everybody knows what to expect. It’s kind of tried and true. You almost can’t screw it up.”
And, he said, “It’s a nice business. You’re making people happy.”
Bertram summed up his experience this way: “We like it. We eat a lot of ice cream and we sell a lot of ice cream. There’s nothing not to like about it.”
Baskin-Robbins was founded in 1945 by ice cream enthusiasts and brothers-in-law Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins, who both served in the military during World War II. The brand has a long history of serving those who serve their country.