The Story of Burton “Burt” Baskin and his Ice Cream Business

On this day December 17 in the year 1913, one of the pioneers in the premium ice cream business was born in the state of Illinois, United States of America. His name was Burton Baskin, the co-founder of Baskin-Robbins, a chain of ice cream parlor in the United States.

Burton Baskin
Burton Baskin (Credit:

Burt Baskin was the son of a Jewish American businessman who owned a clothing store. He attended the University of Illinois and graduated in 1935. After graduation, he joined his father’s clothing business. Later, he opened his own men’s clothing shop in the ground floor of historic Palmer House Hotel in Chicago. During World War II, he served in the US Navy and was assigned in the Southwest Pacific.

When Burt Baskin was discharged from the military, his brother-in-law Irvine suggested that ice cream business is more profitable than clothing. At that time, Irvine was already operating 4 ice cream parlors called Snowbirds. Irvine had pioneered offering 31 flavors for each day of the month. Upon the advice of his father-in-law, Burt opened a separate ice cream parlor instead of partnering with Irvine. In that way, each one of them will understand first the operation of such a business.

In 1947, exactly one year after Burt opened his ice cream store in Pasadena, Los Angeles, the two agreed to merge their operations. Burt had three shops while Irvine had five. Then they opened one branch after another. When they realized how difficult it was to supervise many stores, they offered to sell the stores to the managers who agreed to use the same business name, menu, and management techniques for a fee. This was the start of ‘franchising’ which at that time was not yet in vogue.

In the succeeding years, the number of franchised stores exploded. In 1960, there were more than a hundred Burton-Robbins spread all over the country. In 1967, the business was sold to United Fruits for $12 million. By that time, there were more than 500 stores.

Burt Baskin died of heart attack in 1967 at the age of 54. He had two sons with wife Shirley, the sister of Irvine Robbins.


One comment

  1. The Pasadena store was called “BURTON’S 31 FLAVORS”. Burt’s posted motto was “You get what you pay for”. He was careful to dense-pack the cartons he sold, when he scooped the ice-cream from the larger tubs in the refrigerator; some competitors skim the ice-cream from the tubs, using the scooper, to leave pockets of air in the cartons sold to customers. The store was on the west side of Lake Avenue, near to Bullock’s department store.

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