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Tom Carvel 1906-1990

Country : Athens, Greece
Profession : Ice Cream Mogul
Date of birth : 1906-07-14
Date of death : 1990-10-21
Cause of Death : Unspecified

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Thomas A. Carvelas, also known as Tom Carvel (July 14, 1906October 21, 1990) was a Greek-born American businessman and entrepreneur known for the invention and promotion of soft ice cream in the northeastern United States. He is the founder of the Carvel brand and franchise, and often considered the father of modern franchising in the United States.

Early business career

Carvel began selling ice cream in Hartsdale, New York in 1929, out of his truck. Then, on Memorial Day weekend of 1934, Carvel's truck suffered a flat tire--so he pulled into a parking lot next to a pottery store and began selling his melting ice cream to vacationers driving by. When (within two days) he realized he had sold his entire supply of ice cream, he concluded that he could increase his profits by working from a fixed location (rather than traveling).

The owner of the pottery store consented to allow Carvel to use electricity from his store, so he opened his parked truck for ice cream sales.

Founds Carvel Brand as a franchise

Two years later (in 1936) Carvel purchased the pottery store and converted it into a roadside ice cream stand; this permanently established Carvel as the first retailer to develop and market soft ice cream. The same year, he established the Carvel Brand Corporation and developed a secret soft-serve ice cream formula. As of 2006, the Carvel Corporation is headquartered in Farmington, Connecticut.

Carvel also developed new refrigeration machines and sold his designs. After World War II, he began to franchise his ice cream stores.

Carvel featured in his own advertisements; the company believes that his gravelly voice and personal charm were important factors in the success of his business.

The Carvel company specialized in ice cream cakes, often in the shapes of animals. Two of the most popular ice cream novelties introduced by his business were "Fudgie The Whale" and "Cookie Puss".

Death and controversy

Tom Carvel died in Pine Plains, Dutchess County, New York in 1990 and is buried with his wife Agnes in an outdoor grave in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, which is only a couple of miles away from the spot where he began selling ice cream in 1929.

Pamela Carvel, a niece of the late Tom Carvel, is not convinced that her uncle died of natural causes in his upstate New York home. She thinks he was slain -- killed because he realized employees had been stealing millions from his company. A private investigator for the niece says the doctor whose name is on Tom Carvel's death certificate has admitted he can't recall signing it -- and the handwriting that appears on another part of the document and explains how Carvel died does not appear to be his.

Pamela wants to have Carvel's body exhumed for a posthumous autopsy.

Pamela and other relatives have long suspected Tom Carvel was drugged or suffocated by someone he thought was stealing money from him. His death sparked a complex and still-pending battle over his estate, stemming largely from questions about money Carvel had earmarked for donation to children's charities. Pamela Carvel suspects an untold amount was stolen instead of going to those charitable causes.

The charges and countercharges through the years have included accusations that Pamela Carvel was herself trying to steal from the Carvel estate after her uncle's widow, Agnes, died in 1998.

Pamela Carvel says his death occurred one day before he had planned to fire two veteran employees he had suspected of stealing from him. Her uncle died as she was heading back to New York at his behest to help investigate how he suspected his ice cream empire was being systematically embezzled.

While the timing of his death was suspicious, it took a back seat to the family's grief. No autopsy was performed, and Tom Carvel was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Westchester County.

Subsequently, there were more and more suspicions of financial chicanery and missing money.

In April, 2007, members of his family went to Federal Court to have Carvel's body exhumed and an autopsy performed to investigate whether he was poisoned. Some family members suspected he was drugged or suffocated by employees Carvel himself suspected of embezzlement.

Carvel's estate is said to be worth about $80 million to $250 million.

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