National Ice Cream Month

What’s your favorite way to enjoy ice cream? An old-fashioned milkshake? A simple dish of mint chocolate chip?

Visitors to the ’55 Exchange on Clemson University’s campus can get all that and more. The studentrun operation makes, sells and serves nearly 200 gallons of ice cream every week.

It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1920s, when the first Clemson Creamery sold ice cream, milk and butter out of the basement of the Dairy Building. The Creamery was relocated to Newman Hall in 1956, and today the ice cream-making still takes place there.

In 2005, Clemson’s Class of 1955 provided a generous gift to preserve and build on this dairy enterprise. What was once a hair salon became ’55 Exchange, an ice cream retail store and student entrepreneurial center. Today, 25 students run the operation as a private enterprise. They work with suppliers, manufacture, freeze and package the ice cream, create the marketing plan and handle sales.

“It’s an operation that offers students an opportunity to understand business in a very hands-on way,” says Johnny McGregor, a professor of food, nutrition, and packaging sciences and the faculty adviser for ’55 Exchange. “They have the chance to learn how to manage resources, think creatively and take risks, and learn from mistakes. Having a chance to do this in a business context before they even begin their careers is very valuable for their future success.”

It also has other sweet rewards.

The students are paid an hourly wage and can get their share of a bonus at semester’s end based on sales.

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“It certainly is a product that students enjoy,” says McGregor. “But most of all, it’s an experience that builds their skills for the future and puts them ahead of the curve in terms of landing jobs in food science and other ag and business sectors.”

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