NEW YORK – Behold — the power of Oprah now extends to ice cream.
It was business as usual at Cincinnati-based Graeter's Ice Cream — until last Thursday, when Oprah Winfrey declared Graeter's "absolutely the best ice cream I've ever tasted," on her TV show.
"I think she said it about three times," said Graeter's executive vice-president Richard Graeter. "And after that, it was like Christmas in June overnight."
Since last Thursday, the toll-free number and the Website for the 130-year-old chain of 13 Ohio ice cream parlors (and 20 franchises further south in states like Kentucky) have been deluged with orders — churning out almost 10 times as many orders as they usually do this time of year.
And the orders poured in even though directory assistance didn't have Graeter's 800-number and although Oprah's Website gave an incorrect Web address for Graeter's.
"I was floored. I couldn't have scripted it any better myself," said Graeter, adding that since Winfrey plugged his family's ice cream last week — she reportedly favors the butter pecan flavor — their mail-order business has swelled to about 1,000 more orders a week than usual.
And it's not cheap: Six pints of Graeter's costs $70, and that includes shipping costs. For $110, they'll send you 12 pints.
Winfrey is said to have first tasted Graeter's ice cream last year, when a friend gave her some as a gift for Christmas. Earlier this year, her producers called to ask for a sample.
Two weeks ago, an Oprah producer called Graeter's to say they were planning a special show on summer foods, and wanted to serve Graeter's vanilla ice cream to the 300 studio audience members.
Early last week, Graeter's shipped 10 gallons of vanilla and one pint each of the company's 24 flavors to the show's Chicago studios.
Richard Graeter said he meant to watch the show that day, but missed it when he had to take a call. The next thing he knew, the phones were ringing off the hook.
Graeter said the company, which was founded by his great-grandfather as a malted milk stand in 1870, is having no problem keeping up with the rush of orders.
They've got two extra employees helping Graeter's father, Dick, and his uncle, Lou, pack the pints of ice cream in Styrofoam boxes with dry ice.
The power of an on-air endorsement from Winfrey has become one of the most sought after recommendations in retail.
Until last April when Winfrey abandoned the "Oprah's Book Club" segment of her show, a mention by her was enough to send a book's sales skyrocketing by as many as 600,000 copies.