From The Morning Call -
Life doesn't offer many do-overs, but David Yuengling was granted one this week when, after a 28-year hiatus, Yuengling's Ice Cream went back into production.
The premium all-natural ice cream is being made at Leiby's Dairy Inc. near Tamaqua and will be available in 10 flavors by mid-February.
Initially the ice cream will be sold at Acme, Weis and select independent grocery stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia. It will retail for between $5.49 and $5.99 per quart. A launch into other major grocery stores is anticipated for later this year.
Yuengling's Ice Cream was first sold in 1920 when David Yuengling's great-grandfather, Frank Yuengling, by then already the third generation to run the D.G. Yuengling & Son brewery, had to figure out a way to diversify during Prohibition.
David Yuengling's grandfather took over the ice cream business, then called Yuengling Dairy Products, in 1935. David's father became president of the Pottsville dairy business in 1963. In 1985, Yuengling's Dairy ceased production.
The new incarnation of Yuengling's Ice Cream will be unaffiliated with the Pottsville brewery, owned by David Yuengling's second cousin and Forbes billionaire Dick Yuengling.
"I graduated college in 1984 and had decided to go into computer science," David Yuengling, the company's president, recalled on the fourth day of production at the Leiby's Dairy plant in Walker Township. "My brother, who was four years older, was already a banker. Neither one of us wanted to get into the ice cream business, so my father decided to shut it down and get into other things."
When David Yuengling was approached by Pottsville native Rob Bohorad, a family friend and startup veteran, with the idea of relaunching the business, he seized the opportunity to turn back time on a decision for which he'd held a tinge of regret.
"When you get out of college, you know everything," Yuengling quipped just before leading a tour of the ice cream plant that churns out upward of 72,000 gallons of ice cream for 15 other labels and its own Leiby's Premium Ice Cream brand, a third-generation family business.
As fate would have it, Leiby's co-owner, Bill Parks, is David Yuengling's neighbor and has become a mentor of sorts.
"I had the opportunity to change a decision I made 30 years ago, and I thought it would be fun," Yuengling said.
Despite all the nostalgia, some aspects of the new operation are decidedly different.
This time around, the ice cream contains no artificial ingredients. Due largely to changing consumer preferences, the 10 new recipes — five based loosely on old Yuengling standbys and five based on "current trends in ice cream flavors" — will contain milk, sugar and cream as well as mostly plant-based and vegetable-based flavorings, Yuengling said.
Among the flavors are old standbys such as chocolate and vanilla, but also black and tan and espresso chocolate chip.
The manufacturing plant, which employs 37 and has been operating since 2000, can automatically pack, label and shrink-wrap 40 quarts of the rich-and-creamy ice cream per minute. Before, one person packed individual half-gallons by hand.
"When we made ice cream before, all this machinery didn't exist," Yuengling said with a Willie Wonka wave of his hand. "We had one guy with a single container filling one half-gallon at a time. When we ceased production, the machinery was just coming out and the larger companies used it, but we didn't."
Back in the day, Yuengling's Dairy also maintained its own fleet of trucks and offered direct-to-store delivery. Now the flash-frozen ice cream will go to a central storage facility for distribution to grocery store warehouses.
But the individual touch will continue, said Bohorad, the company's chief operating officer. Bohorad said he will handle the financial end and meet with retail customers south of Harrisburg, while Yuengling will oversee operations and production and personally serve customers north of Harrisburg.
"We plan to focus first on areas Yuengling has been in before," Bohorad said. "Our plan is for long-term slow growth to build up a good business. We didn't want to expand too quickly."
Ingredients also will be sourced as locally as possible.
"About 85 percent of the ingredients come from Pennsylvania," Yuengling said, adding that he recently toured one of the local dairies.
Bohorad said the first thing his business partner did was to seek the blessing of Dick Yuengling.
"Dick said, 'David, that's what your side of the family did for many, many years, so all I ask is that you make a quality product,' and so that's our goal — and he wanted some samples."
At the end of a whirlwind plant tour that included a sampling of chocolate marshmallow scooped out by David Yuengling himself, he recalled doing the same thing as a teenager at the family ice cream shop on 22nd Street in Pottsville.
"I'm a prime example that you can get into one industry and at any time you can change and wind up doing something totally different."