Ben and Jerry’s St. Louis franchisee Steve Snipes
Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop (6380 Delmar) is owned and operated by Steve Snipes, a North Carolina transplant with a family story of incarceration, exoneration, and entrepreneurship. Snipes is ready to make a difference in the community, beginning with the shop’s grand reopening on Tuesday, April 18, from 1–9 p.m.
There will be a ribbon-cutting at 2 p.m., followed by activist speeches at 4 p.m., with special guests including Ben & Jerry’s founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Primo Partners’ Antonio McBroom, aldermanic president Megan Green, and more. Visitors can also get a free single-scoop cone. Here’s what to know before you go.
Snipes first visited his future ice cream shop on a rainy day exactly one year ago: April 17, 2022. He came at the invitation of Primo Partners, the largest Black-owned, multi-unit Ben & Jerry’s franchise group. Snipes had management experience at three shops near Raleigh, North Carolina, and Primo thought he would be the perfect person to rehab the University City location. After seeing the shop, he agreed.
Even within a company that believes premium ice cream can change the world, Primo is noteworthy: The fast-growing franchise group has 14 shops across 10 states and won Ben & Jerry’s Big O Operator of the Year award in 2022. One of its leaders, McBroom says the company exists to create opportunities for historically marginalized people.
Snipes is one example. When he was a teenager, his father was arrested for a North Carolina convenience store robbery that he didn’t commit. Within months, the elder Steven Snipes was tried and convicted and sentenced to prison. After another man bragged about committing the 1998 robbery, Snipes’ conviction was vacated and he was granted a new trial. The charges were dismissed in 2003, and he was pardoned and awarded compensation in 2007. “My dad was the first person to be exonerated in North Carolina,” Snipes says.
Meanwhile, the younger Snipes was living in New York state and growing into a 6-foot-6-inch point guard, who eventually attended Morgan State University in Maryland to play Division 1 basketball. His future seemed promising—until he was incarcerated for possession of a firearm, a felony. “There’s a reason recidivism is as high as it is,” Snipes says. It can be difficult for felons to land employment, even though finding a job is often a condition of their parole or probation.
Antonio McBroom, CEO of Primo Partners, Phillip Scotton, COO of Primo Partners, and Eric Taylor, CFO of Primo Partners
McBroom had known Snipes and his family for a long time. They had shared interests and mutual respect. Snipes knew of McBroom’s commitment to centering equity, growing generational wealth in the Black community, promoting mentorship, and engaging nonprofit partners at Primo. He went to work for the company and quickly thrived.
“Ben & Jerry’s three-part mission is near and dear to my heart,” Snipes says. “Yes, their product and their sourcing is great, but we’re all about the people. I’m here to help folks in St. Louis know there is another way to get ahead. You can play sports or make music, but you can also choose so many other things.”
What Snipes didn’t know on that rainy day last year was just how deeply St. Louis needs people like him who have a self-proclaimed focus on “love, peace, and fighting ignorance—because when there’s ignorance involved, everyone loses,” he says.
Snipes had been here less than four weeks when he learned about the Delmar Divide from one of his employees. “I’ve never experienced a city like this,” Snipes says. “There’s so much chance for education.”
As a new owner and operator, Snipes set out to overhaul the scoop shop. “I’ve changed everything from floor to ceiling,” he says, ticking off a list that includes “new lights, paint, ventilation, and an impeccable bathroom.”
Customers will notice the Primo way of doing business, Snipes promises. From comfortable surroundings to top-notch customer service, everything is designed to make people feel welcomed and want to return. As one of Primo’s trainers throughout North Carolina and Georgia, Snipes knows how to build his new crew into seasoned pros at both scooping and sales.
A key to Snipes’ success at other locations was the off-site catering business. In Chapel Hill, for example, Ben & Jerry’s was well-known for catering sporting events, such as basketball and baseball games—but it also added a sweet-not-somber touch to an influential judge’s funeral, helping the family add an aura of celebration for a life well lived.