House of Flavors, Ludington’s famous ice cream turns 65

June 5, 2013
Bob Jr., left, and Barry Neal.

Bob Jr., left, and Barry Neal.

LUDINGTON – As one of Michigan’s original, continuously-operating ice cream makers and parlors – and Michigan’s largest ice cream manufacturer under one roof – Ludington-based House of Flavors celebrates 65 years of churning out ice cream and smiles with a summer of festivities that gives a nod to the company’s roots while celebrating its growth into the future.

The privately-held, family-run operation kicks off anniversary activities starting with a “Back to the Fifties” Festival June 7 to 9 of retro-themed events that hearken to the ice cream parlor’s earlier days.

Barry scoops ice cream behind the counter that's lined with visitors during the summer.

Barry scoops ice cream behind the counter that’s lined with visitors during the summer.

“House of Flavors is something incredibly special – it’s not every day that you can go to an ice cream parlor run by the same family as when it opened its doors,” said Bob Neal, Jr., House of Flavors chairman of the board and son of the late founder, Bob Neal, Sr. “In a day when most businesses like ours have been bought out, gone public or merged with others, we are proud not only to be independent, but to be one of Michigan’s longest-running ice cream companies on the same site.”

House of Flavors is celebrating not only its past, but its success as the state’s largest ice cream manufacturer under one roof, producing 24 million gallons annually in almost 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space. But more than Michiganders enjoy the company’s sweet treats – House of Flavors also is Michigan’s biggest private-label ice cream manufacturer, producing 3,400 ice cream recipes (including 400 kinds of vanilla) for customers that span the globe.

“We are privileged and honored to manufacture and serve ice cream to the generations of ice cream lovers who have visited us in Ludington and Manistee as well as those nationally who enjoy our ice cream under other labels,” said Barry Neal, general manager and Bob’s son.

One of House of Flavors’ more famous contributions to ice cream lore is Blue Moon – the distinctly bright blue ice cream flavor unique to the Midwest that continues to be a mystery as to its ingredients and origin. House of Flavors has been making this signature flavor not only since its 1948 beginnings but since the mid-1930’s when the company was previously called Park Dairy. The flavor is so iconic for House of Flavors that it created a “Mr. Moonie” Blue Moon ice cream cone mascot in 1996.

“You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who made Blue Moon before we did,” said Bob. “I’ll go on the record as saying we are the first ice cream company to make Blue Moon ice cream.”

History and fun facts.

History/Founding

  • While House of Flavors started in 1948, the company made ice cream as far back as 1935 when it was Miller Dairy.

 

  • Four generations of the same family have operated the business – Bob Neal, Sr. as founder (deceased); Bob Neal Jr. as owner and now chairman of the board; Barry Neal as general manager, and Madison Neal as server.

 

  • LIFE magazine ran a photograph of Park Dairy (House of Flavors predecessor) in its Sept. 21, 1953issue, showing Ludington-area school children shooting malt-dipped straw wrappers to the ceiling. An original copy resides at House of Flavors in Ludington.

 

Ice Cream Production

    • Annual production24 million gallons – enough ice cream to fill 36 Olympic-size swimming pools. That equals:
      • Two million gallons a month
      • 600,000 gallons a week
      • 100,000 gallons a day (as many as it made in a year in the beginning)

 

    • Number of scoops dipped annually– 260,000 at the ice cream parlors in Ludington and Manistee – the equivalent of 13,000 gallons.

 

    • Scoops given away – More than 40,000annually between October and April at the Ludington and Manistee parlors to thank the local communities for their support.

 

    • Volume of cream purchased to make ice cream– 100,000 gallons annually – nearly all coming from Michigan farms.

 

Michigan Firsts

    • Michigan’s largest ice cream manufacturer under one roof – Produces 24 million gallons annually in almost 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

 

    • Michigan’s biggest private-label ice cream manufacturer – Produces 3,400 different recipes of ice cream.

 

    • One of Michigan’s longest-running ice cream manufacturers on the same site.

 

    • Only place to get multi-flavored ice cream for a time – In 1964, House of Flavors was the only place in Michigan that could combine three flavors into one recipe at once because of a unique technology, making them the only source of multi-flavored ice cream like Neapolitanand Rainbow Sherbet at that time.

 

Flavors

  • Number of flavors Started with five original flavors in 1948 (Vanilla, Chocolate, Lemon, French Vanilla, and Blue Moon) and has rotated hundreds of flavors over the years, offering an average of 36 or more flavors at any given time.

 

  • Number of individual ice cream recipes3,400-plus

 

  • Best-selling flavorVanilla. In fact, House of Flavors produces 400 kinds of vanilla ice cream in 25 shades for its private-label customers. (Texas customers like their vanilla yellow, whereas Michigan customers prefer their vanilla to be off-white.)

 

  • Most unusual flavorDill Pickle, which was light green with pickle chunks.

 

  • Least popular flavorsBatman (black licorice and Blue Moon) and Zebra (black licorice with vanilla) – both of which turned the tasters’ tongues and lips black.

 

Blue Moon

    • One of original manufacturers – House of Flavors has been making Blue Moon since the early 1930s when it was Miller Dairy. An ice cream flavor found almost exclusively in the Midwest, Blue Moon is a mystery as to its origin and ingredients. If there are no challengers, it will take the Blue Moon crown!

 

    • Most iconic flavorBlue Moon is the company’s signature flavor, so much so that it created a “Mr. Moonie” ice cream cone mascot in 1996 (complete with birth certificate hanging in the Ludington parlor) to commemorate its most popular dish.

 

    • Contraband” ice cream in the early years – At one time, the FDA banned the coloring that contributed to Blue Moon’s distinctly blue color, prompting the company to hide the food coloring under five-gallon pails in the basement!

 

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