Historic Velvet Ice Cream celebrates 100 years

​​Piled high with creamy vanilla ice cream – or another flavor of your choosing – and overflowing with nutty, hot fudgy goodness, and whipped cream, the Messy Mess Sundae lives up to its name.

And if the oversized goblet dripping with hot fudge is not tempting enough, perhaps the Feed Bin is in order – 14 scoops of ice cream, complete with sundae toppings, bananas, nuts and, of course, a cherry on top. Both mega sundaes and many more taste-bud tempting ice cream creations are on the menu at Velvet Ice Cream’s Ye Olde Mill in Utica, Ohio.

With flavors like Buckeye Classic, Cookie Dough Extreme, Butter Pecan Cashew and Raspberry Fudge Cordial, Ye Olde Mill is an ice-cream lovers haven. And what better time to make the trip than now as July is National Ice Cream Month.

And there is even more to celebrate as this year marks Velvet’s 100th anniversary. President Luconda Dager and vice presidents Joanne and Andre Dager are the 4th generation of the Dager family to lead the company – no small accomplishment as just 3 percent of American businesses achieve the 4th generation milestone.

In just over a two-hour drive Miami Valley ice cream enthusiasts can be at Velvet Ice Cream, recognized by Frommer’s as one of America’s 10 Best Ice Cream Factory Tours.

Family Fun

A trip to Velvet is about more than a scoop of ice cream – much more.

The 25-acre property includes a playground, picnic shelters, nature trails and catch-and-release fishing pond in addition to the ice cream facilities.

“People slow down when they get here,” Luconda said. “It really is a destination, a lot of our customers spend two or three hours here. A day surrounded by ice cream, what could be better.”

More than 150,000 guests visit this family run, family fun destination annually to enjoy the free tours or sample a scoop or two.

In the viewing gallery, guests watch on as employees make and package gallons of frozen deliciousness. Velvet produces more than 6 million gallons of ice cream, and 70 different flavors, annually.

Not always an ice cream mecca, visitors can get a lesson in the history of Ye Olde Mill and milling itself in the onsite Museum of Milling. The original mill was first operational in 1817.

The gift shop also houses hand-on ice cream exhibits and trivia displays. Do you know what ice cream flavor was Elvis’ favorite? Have you ever heard of dill pickle or fried pork rind ice cream? The complete list of the 10 Weirdest Flavors is also on display.

If you’ve worked up an appetite, then a trip to the Wheel Room Restaurant or the Ice Cream Parlour will help you recharge. Soups, sandwiches and salads are on the menu but the star of the show is definitely the ice cream. Shakes, sundaes, floats or a cone – it’s all there.

And to celebrate their 100th anniversary, Velvet recently introduced four flavors to its All Natural line – salted chocolate fudge, original vanilla, vanilla chocolate duo and bourbon pecan.

Family Tradition

Joe Dager wasted little time getting his oldest daughter introduced to the family business.

“After I was born, the first stop – after the hospital – was the plant,” Luconda said with a smile.

The Dager sisters pretty much grew up at the plant – playing and learning.

It was their great grandfather Joseph Dager who hand-cranked the first batch of vanilla ice cream 100 years earlier. Velvet Ice Cream was born.

With the help of his sons Ed and Charlie, Velvet Ice Cream grew into a thriving business. In the 1930s, Velvet built a manufacturing plant behind the confectionery and began selling ice cream to near-by grocery stores and restaurants expanding into Columbus in 1937.

While much has changed in the decades that followed, Americans love of ice cream hasn’t wavered. Ohio, in fact, has 15 ice cream manufacturers, more than any other state, and is ranked fifth nationally in consumption.

Once a local favorite, Velvet is now a super-regional brand with direct store delivery in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia. Locally, Dorothy Lane Market recently began carrying Velvet Ice Cream. The Ohio-made frozen confection is actually available in 26 states as restaurants like Bob Evans serve up Velvet Ice Cream.

Velvet Ice Cream Timeline Highlights

  • 1914 - Joseph Dager begins making ice cream in the basement of a confectionery in Utica, Ohio. He started with just three flavors, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.
  • 1930 – Second-generation owner Charles Dager was instrumental in changing the city ordinances, so other independent companies in Ohio could supply products to Columbus and central Ohio retail markets. The company’s first distribution center opens in Bucyrus in 1937.
  • 1950 - Joe and Mike Dager (third generation) worked in production and other parts of the business as children, learning the business from the ground up.
  • 1960 - Velvet Ice Cream relocates it manufacturing facility to the Ye Olde Mill, one mile south of Velvet’s original location. Now the trademark for Velvet, the Mill appears on every package of ice cream.
  • 1974 - First Annual Utica Ice Cream Festival hosted by Utica Sertoma and Velvet Ice Cream. Today, nearly 30,000 people attend this festival to enjoy a day surrounded by ice cream
  • 2000 - Velvet’s Visitors Center opens at Ye Olde Mill for factory tours.
  • 2009 - Joseph C. Dager becomes chairman of the board. Joe’s oldest daughter, Luconda, becomes president and Joanne and Andre Dager become vice-presidents.

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