RANCHO MIRAGE Calif. Irvine "Irv" Robbins, co-founder of the Baskin-Robbins treats chain and a pioneer of exotic ice cream flavors, died Monday of complications related to old age. He was 90.
Robbins grew up scooping ice cream at his family’s dairy. In 1945, he opened his first cone shop, Snowbird Ice Cream in Glendale, Calif., offering 21 flavors. The following year, his brother-in-law Burton Baskin also opened a shop, Burton’s Ice Cream, in Pasadena. Within three years, Robbins had five Snowbird locations and Baskin had three Burton’s branches.
Robbins’ father reportedly advised the two against running a business together because their individual creativity might be stifled. But the in-laws decided to combine their operations. In 1949, they purchased a dairy in Burbank, Calif., which gave them control over production.
The two went on to franchise new stores, which helped them grow rapidly. In 1953, they renamed the company Baskin-Robbins, focusing on 31 flavors — one for each day of the month. The order of their names was decided with a coin toss.
By 1967, when the chain consisted of about 500 units, the partners sold the company to United Fruit Co., for an estimated $12 million. Six months later, Baskin died of a heart attack at age 54.
Robbins stayed with the company another 11 years, and often taught entrepreneurship at area universities before retiring to Rancho Mirage.
Baskin-Robbins now has more than 5,800 locations around the world. The brand is franchised by Dunkin’ Brands Inc., the Canton, Mass.-based company that also franchises Dunkin’ Donuts.
Robbins is survived by his wife, Irma, as well as three children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.