Meet The Bassett Family
Ann Bassett, In Memoriam
A woman ahead of her time, Ann Bassett, was the driving force behind the initial expansion of her family’s ice cream business beyond Philadelphia. From her early teens, Ann worked both at the store’s counter dipping ice cream and in their production area located in the basement of Reading Terminal Market. She married in her early twenties and left to raise her family. In her mid-forties, as circumstances changed in her life, Ann found herself living with her two boys back under her parents’ roof.
While living again with her parents, Ann started organizing her dad’s paperwork and, with his blessing, she moved the files to an office at the store. While her dad was a creative genius with many interests, including photography, music, movie making, and tinkering with the formula for the family’s famous ice cream, he happily relinquished the business side of the operation to Ann.
Not long after that, they received an offer from a New York-based company to distribute Bassetts Ice Cream there and even though her dad was a bit apprehensive, Ann moved ahead with the arrangement. The distributor got the ball rolling, others heard about it and the rest is history, so to speak.
One of Ann’s favorite memories of her dad, a true renaissance man, was the time he determined that the dining room was too short for his movie projector to display the full image on the wall, so he cut a hole in the kitchen wall to accommodate the projector. Of course, when her mother got home, the hole became history, but also a really good story! The greatest legacy left by her father is the formula he created that still serves as the base for many of our ice creams today. He also filmed the historic video footage we use to this day to tell the rich history of our family owned business.
When the time had come for dad to retire, Ann became CEO and president. She incorporated the business in 1977 and under her leadership the expansion of distribution to New York and other areas of the country, along with additional sales to wholesale accounts in the Philadelphia region, led to a many-fold increase in overall revenues for the business. One of Ann’s proudest moments as CEO came when she was recognized by the Committee of 200, an American Business Women’s Forum of Executives, and invited to join.
When her oldest son, Michael, finished college, he went to work in the private sector. Initially, he didn’t want any part of the business, but after some cajolling he decided to give it a try. For less than a decade, mother and son worked side-by-side and at some point, Ann felt it was time to retire herself and she passed the reins to her son, Michael.
Michael Strange, President and CEO
Michael Strange began his career in the ice cream business at the tender age of twelve clearing dishes from the famous marble counter of our Reading Terminal Market store. “Mikey Pal”, as his grandfather called him, was getting schooled in the fine art of customer service and family values. As a member of Bassetts fifth generation legacy, this capable Bassetts busboy graduated to scooping and serving ice cream while in high school. Continuing to work in the family business during his college years, Michael spent his summers in the plant, actually making Bassetts World Famous Ice Cream.
After graduation from college, Michael went to work for Price Waterhouse, became a CPA, and had no intention of returning to the family business as a career. A few years later, while looking for a job in the private sector, a compelling evening out with his mother and grandfather convinced Michael to try his hand at the family business. He joined the company full-time in 1983 and in 1989, Michael Strange became the president of Bassetts Ice Cream.
Under Michael’s leadership over the last, nearly 30 years, Bassetts Ice Cream Company has grown substantially. Bassetts Ice Cream is now offered at many of the Philadelphia area’s finest restaurants, hotels and clubs, and is proudly served at independent ice cream shops throughout the region. Bassetts can now also be found in select supermarkets including Giant Food Stores, Whole Foods Markets and McCaffrey’s Food Markets, among others.
Standing on the shoulders of the generations who came before him, Michael is proud to begin the process of schooling the next generation to lead the business into the future. While still deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, many of the inquiries that come through our office can now be handled by one of the team members listed on this page. Like a well-oiled machine, they get the job done!
Additionally, Bassetts Ice Cream has extended its geographic reach to include distribution along the Eastern seaboard, and as far west as Chicago and Los Angeles.
Bassetts Ice Cream’s first order to China was shipped in 2008 and in December of 2016 we began shipping to South Korea. Remarkably, international sales now comprise about 20% of our business and the demand continues to grow.
Roger Bassett, General Manager Retail Operations
Roger Bassett began scooping ice cream at age 11 with his grandfather behind the counter at the Reading Terminal Market. By the time he was a freshman in college he owned the store and was going to school full time—taking classes in the morning, working at the store in the afternoon and then going back to school for evening classes.
Through the years Roger experimented with different concepts featuring Bassetts Ice Cream, including a sundae bar and a fresh blend bar. In addition to the different concepts in the Reading Terminal Market, he also featured the ice cream at other locations, including Chestnut Hill Farmers’ Market and special events throughout the Philadelphia region. But he always came back to the Reading Terminal Market.
Roger continued tweaking concepts, and in 1983 he made his first, fresh-roasted turkey sandwich in a corner of the Bassetts Fresh Blends store. Today, that Original Turkey store continues to thrive. In 1990 Roger sold the ice cream store to his cousin, Michael Strange, to concentrate on growing the turkey franchise. He continues to be involved with the original family business, frequently checking to make sure his favorite flavor, chocolate chip, is still the way his grandfather made it. In 2000, Roger returned to his ice cream roots as the Managing Partner of the retail location, overseeing the daily operations of the store. Roger still participates in the occasional special event with his son, Eric, who runs Bassetts Catering.
Alex Bassett Strange, Vice-President of Distribution
Growing up in Minnesota did not stop this member of the Bassett family's sixth generation from getting involved in the family's ice cream business in Philadelphia. Alex Bassett Strange is the great-great-great grandson of the company's founder, Lewis Dubois Bassett and nephew to Bassetts Ice Cream’s president, Michael Strange.
For over a decade, Alex spent summers working for the family business in Philadelphia, so he is no stranger to the inner workings of the company. He has seen both the wholesale and retail sides of the operation, from dipping ice cream at our Reading Terminal Market to overseeing the export of large orders of ice cream mooncakes to China. During the school year, Alex continued his education and in 2014 graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Business Management from Northern Michigan University's Walker L. Cisler College of Business. His formal education, along with two years at Hormel Foods in Osceola, Iowa have helped to prepare Alex for the responsibilities he has undertaken as a full time member of the Bassetts management team.
Reflecting on his two years as a Plant Supervisor with Hormel Foods, Alex said, "My biggest takeaway was learning to deal with people. I focused on keeping employees comfortable, productive, and safe. But I also learned how to run meetings, manage projects, and update processes to stay current with best practices, and to save the company money." All of these experiences are a welcome addition to the daily operations of his family business and we couldn't be happier in having Alex as a part of the next gen team!
Mary Bassett, Bookkeeper
Mary’s earliest memory of Bassetts Ice Cream is meeting Roger Bassett at the store’s counter in the Reading Terminal Market (RTM) for a job interview. One of the first questions Roger asked her was, “Have you ever tasted Bassetts Ice Cream?” to which she enthusiastically replied, “Yes!” Although she really had no recollection of whether or not she had eaten the product, good job interview form prompted the affirmative response. After a brief interview and a spoonful of French Vanilla (“Bassetts most famous flavor,” Roger told her) , she was hired.
Fast forward 31 years – Mary and Roger have been married for over 30 years and both are still involved in the family business, as is their son, Eric, who runs Bassetts Catering. Through the years, Mary has worked many jobs at Bassetts including scooping behind the historic marble counter at the RTM store. She has also been involved in the business on the wholesale side, doing a little bit of everything, from bookkeeping to designing brochures, and from writing newsletters to archiving family history. Today Mary continues to do the bookkeeping for the retail store and helps out during special events. While ice cream is rarely in their freezer at home, Mary enjoys going behind the RTM counter and perusing the flavors to see what looks good that day. Among her favorites are Cherry Vanilla, English Toffee Crunch and Butterscotch Vanilla. But her true passion remains Butter Brickle, even though the flavor was discontinued some years ago. Occasionally, Mary tries to convince Michael to bring it back, but that’s another story.
Eric Bassett, Director of Catering Operations
The great-great-great grandson of the company's founder, Lewis Dubois Bassett, Eric is a member of the Bassett family's sixth generation involved in the daily operations of the company. From his earliest years on this earth, perched on the famous marble counter of the family's flagship store at Reading Terminal Market, Eric remembers the creamy taste of Bassetts Ice Cream. Today, Eric leads the charge on the catering side of the business, serving customers in and around the Philadelphia area.