Fittingly scheduled for the weekend that marks the unofficial beginning of summer, the Utica Sertoma Ice Cream Festival will include a parade, an ice cream eating contest, a car show, an appearance by denizens of the Columbus Zoo, and a motorcycle cruise-in, according to Andre Dager, a fourth generation member of the Velvet Ice Cream founding family.
Perhaps the most important decision in the company's history came in 1960. The company purchased an old-fashioned mill, complete with water wheel, and moved its manufacturing operation there. Ten years later, it opened an ice cream parlor there, naming it Ye Olde Mill. The mill became "an icon for the company, and a symbol of quality", said Andre Dager. When the mill burned down in 1986, it had to be rebuilt. Andre says that Ohio is home to more independent ice cream companies than any other state, and the company couldn't afford to lose the building that had become their unique home.
Taking a drive out to the country for some delicious ice cream isn't a hard sell, but the company wanted to continue to build loyalty among consumers, so factory tours, which had begun in 1978, were expanded with the opening of a visitors' center in 2000. Today, 40,000 people take advantage of factory tours each year, of 150,000 total visitors who may partake of meals in the restaurant, or view the Museum of Milling. "People want to know where it comes from," Andre Dager said of her company's product, "and we want to have the opportunity to interact with consumers."
Velvet All Natural was introduced recently, with unique flavors like bourbon pecan, and salted chocolate fudge. One of the best places to purchase Velvet Ice Cream in the Cincinnati area is Jungle Jim's.
Read about another Ohio independent ice cream company, or, about another institution celebrating 100 years, by clicking on the links below.