Ice cream lovers are well acquainted with the name Perry’s.
They see it at the grocery store or at their favorite ice cream shop while perusing the many flavors as they attempt to make that crucial decision: Fireball or Panda Paws™. No wait, maybe Let’s Dough Buffalo™, or perhaps even Mint-Ting-A-Ling.
While Perry’s Ice Cream aficionados may be very familiar with the company, what they might not be aware of, however, is the role that Alfred State College has played in its success.
Brian Perry, the executive vice president, chairman, and an owner of Perry’s, is both a fourth-generation member of the 100-year-old business, as well as a second-generation Pioneer, who continues to take his company to great heights thanks in part to his Alfred State education.
Growing up in the small village of Akron, Brian lived right across the street from Perry’s Ice Cream’s original plant. After attending Michigan State for a year and a half, Brian decided he wanted a college that was closer to home and had smaller class sizes. He then asked his uncle Dale, an Alfred State alum, what he thought about his alma mater.
“I asked him how he liked Alfred State and he said it was a great experience,” Brian said.
Convinced, Brian enrolled in Alfred State’s business administration associate degree program, which he would graduate from in 1985. Every weekend during the school year, Brian returned home to work, as Perry’s was growing at an annual rate of between 20-25 percent at the time.
As a student, Brian valued the relationships he had with his professors, the interaction they had with the class, and the education he was receiving.
“It was a good mix of the academic world and the real world – book knowledge and real-world application,” he said.
After receiving his degree, Brian joined the family business in 1985 as a personnel supervisor, the first of several roles he would hold in the company. While working part-time in sales, Brian attended Canisius College full time, earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1993.
By 2001, thanks in part to his Alfred State education, Brian had worked his way up in the company to become the executive vice president. In this role, Brian works closely with the executive leadership team on customer relations, industry relations, government relations, strategic leadership, capital projects, and mentoring. In addition, he was named chairman in 2012.
Along with being an Alfred State alum, another commonality between Brian and his uncle Dale (who passed away in 2011) is the fact that both of them were able to significantly expand Perry’s. Dale, who received his business administration degree from the college in 1966, led the business as co-CEO in the 1990s. Along with his brother Tom (Brian’s father), Dale was, in part responsible for the company’s move to One Ice Cream Plaza in Akron, as well as the tripling of sales from 2 million gallons of ice cream to 6 million.
Similarly, since taking over leadership in 2000, Brian and his brother-in-law, Robert Denning, president and CEO, have increased production to 12 million gallons, expanded sales of the Perry’s brand into western Pennsylvania and the state of Ohio, and enabled Perry’s to become an international manufacturing company.
Brian and Dale both attributed a large part of their success to their learning experiences at Alfred State, citing small class sizes, an open-minded atmosphere, and professors willing to engage in real-world experiences as reasons that they were able to grow.
“It’s both personal and professional,” Brian said. “My relationships with professors and administrators were and are on a first-name basis. I can pick up the phone anytime and they can do the same. Professionally, our Alfred educations were definitely instrumental in the success of business, no doubt about it. To grow from less than a $10 million business to one now over $100 million requires a sound educational foundation and a lot of hard work.”
In February 2016, the ties between Perry’s and Alfred State were strengthened even more when the college opened a new dining option on campus named “Alfie’s” that serves Perry’s Ice Cream. For Brian, the fact that his alma mater is now serving Perry’s means a lot.
“I am very proud of how Alfie’s turned out and of the relationship between Alfred State and Perry’s,” he said.
Another commonality between Alfred State and Perry’s is that both are celebrating major milestones in 2018, as Alfred State marked its 110th anniversary this year, while Perry’s turned 100. The company was founded in 1918 by Brian’s great-grandfather H. Morton Perry.
To celebrate its anniversary, Perry’s earlier this year brought back four retro flavors and launched a special 100th anniversary flavor, The Good Stuff, exclusively for its scoop shops. In addition, Perry’s has planned several special events to honor its customers, partners, team members, and community members who have helped make the company a 100-year success.
As a fourth-generation leader of Perry’s, Brian said his company turning 100 means a huge sense of accomplishment for him.
“I have come to appreciate each generation’s ability to navigate through the adversity of not only the standard life cycles of business, but also the dynamics of a family business,” he said. “We have always focused on growth, which would assure opportunities for not only the Perry family, but also for our team members. To keep good people, they must see that there are advancement opportunities, which means job satisfaction.”
In addition to his professional responsibilities, Brian has also been very active in the community, serving as a 30-year member and past president of the Akron Lions Club, a village of Akron trustee, and a board member for the International Dairy Foods Association, which presented him with its Soaring Eagle Award. Additionally, he is a past Junior Achievement of Western New York Board member and a recipient of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
On a personal note, Brian’s wife of 26 years, Jayne, has been a sales administrator at Perry’s for 22 years. Together, the couple have one daughter, Jenna, 23.
No matter how much Perry’s continues to thrive under Brian’s leadership, he will always be grateful for Alfred State and the ways in which it helped both him and his uncle grow their family business for generations to come. Much like the feeling that comes with choosing just the right flavor of ice cream, Brian and Dale were very satisfied with their choice to become Pioneers.