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ROOTED: Kawartha Dairy marks 86 years of making 'great family memories'

The company, which was started by Jack and Ila Crowe in 1937, opened its first ice cream store in the 1960s
Jack and Ila Crowe, founders of Kawartha Dairy, would be proud to see how their ice cream parlour became such a loved brand, said third-generation family owner Mike Crowe.

It was 1937 when Jack and Ila Crowe bought a small dairy in Bobcaygeon and planted the seed that blossomed into one of the most beloved family-run ice cream parlours in the province.

“Kawartha Dairy has been proud to be a 100 per cent Canadian-owned company, still operated by the same family that started it back in the beginning,” said Mike Crowe, director of product and capability development and third-generation family owner of the renowned Peterborough-area dairy.

Back then, he says, the newly renamed Kawartha Dairy didn’t bear much resemblance to the larger stores you see today.

“At that time, it consisted of a small, simple, three-room building, where the cold storage area was cooled with ice cut from the lake," Crowe says. 

It was a time when local farms provided the milk, which was picked up in 80-pound galvanized steel cans by wagons in the summer and by sleigh in the winter.

“In those days, all of the milk was delivered to homes by horse or to cottages by boat," he says. 

In 1942, as the business continued to grow, Jack and Ila bought one of the other dairies operating in Bobcaygeon.

Kawartha didn’t produce ice cream yet, which would change in the coming years.

“A very significant moment was in the mid-'50s when Jack went back to school, at the Ontario College of Agriculture in Guelph, to learn the craft of making ice cream," Crowe says.

The first ice cream store was opened in the 1960s in Minden, and in 2000 the company opened its fifth location, in Uxbridge, to cater to people closer to the GTA.

Today, Kawartha Dairy operates 10 stores, including one one Alexander Road in Newmarket, and services a wide range of wholesale customers, from retail outlets to grocery stores and ice cream parlours.

“We enjoy helping the community make great family memories and knowing our customers by name," he says. "And we look forward to continuing to do so.”

When asked what makes Kawartha Dairy ice cream so popular, Crowe points to the freshness of its ingredients.

"Kawartha Dairy ice cream is unique because it is made with fresh milk and cream from local farms within 100 kilometres of the plant, and then made into ice cream and packaged within 36 hours," he says. 

After all these years, Crowe wonders what would surprise the first-generation entrepreneurs.

“I think our grandparents would be proud of the fact that Kawartha Dairy has become such a loved brand and continues to be part of many great family memories," he says. 

As for Crowe himself, he says he’s excited to see the many happy customers who have chosen to include Kawartha Dairy in some of their significant occasions.

“We hope to continue to help families make great memories and put smiles on our customers' faces," he says.