Ben & Jerry’s Old Town Fort Collins ice cream shop sold after 26 years


After nearly 26 years of scooping Old Town Square, the longtime owners of Fort Collins’ Ben & Jerry’s store are stepping back from the ice cream business.

Lee and Ann Swanson, who opened the scoop store in Old Town Square in 1996, recently sold it to Jessica Norris and Jessica Dizmang — business partners who operate Ben & Jerry’s stores in Denver and Boulder, respectively, according to Lee.

The Swansons’ last day at the store was Thursday, Lee said, adding there will be travel, volunteering and pickleball in their future.

“I’m a little weird about it,” he laughed. “That means total retirement when you’re playing pickleball.”

The Swansons’ retirement ends a nearly three-decade run that began in the mid-1990s when Lee, then a graphic designer, and Ann, a photo stylist and illustrator for a Loveland magazine publisher, wanted to change careers.

“There was only one ice cream shop in (Old) Town back then,” Lee said, referring to Walrus Ice Cream, a Mountain Avenue fixture.

After learning that Ben & Jerry’s had scoop stores and applying to become a franchisee, Lee said he and Ann were told they had been chosen from thousands of applicants as the chain screened franchisees in areas of Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins.

Around the same time, Lee said he learned that the Children’s Mercantile toy store, an original tenant in Old Town Square, had left its unit for space on South College Avenue.

“I ran upstairs, talked to the landlord,” Lee said. “…It was just an obvious thing of fate that we got that spot.”

Speaking of fate, Lee said he thinks that also came into play recently when Norris and Dizmang showed interest in buying Ann’s scoop shop.

In this file photo, people line up for a free cone from Ben & Jerry's on April 14, 2015 in Fort Collins.

“Jessi (Norris) is the same age as me when we opened (the boutique)… 40,” Lee said, adding that Norris, a graduate of Poudre High School and Colorado State University, will run the Fort boutique. Collins.

“They are seasoned. They know what they are doing,” he added. “For me, it was a no-brainer.”

Erin Udell reports on current affairs, culture, history and more for the Coloradoan. Contact her at [email protected] The only way she can keep doing what she does is with your support. If you subscribe, thank you. Otherwise, sign up for a digital subscription to The Coloradoan today.

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