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Charles V. Dake and Percy W. Dake form the first in what will become many business partnerships to buy the Dake family dairy farm near Middle Grove, NY from their father. This is the Homestead house on the Dake family dairy farm.
The Dake brothers want to find a better market for their milk so they try making butter and selling it in local stores. However, they realize there is a demand for ice cream and sell 4,000 gallons the first year. This starts Dake’s Delicious Ice Cream.
Charles V. and Percy borrow $10,000 to rent and convert a railroad freight station into an ice cream manufacturing plant. They purchase a bright red Model-T delivery truck and paint “Dake’s Delicious Ice Cream” on the side of it. They make deliveries of bulk ice cream to Saratoga, Troy, Schenectady, and Albany for $5 per 5-gallon can.
With the help of millionaire Robert McMullen, the ice cream plant is relocated to a new state-of-the-art building on Route 9N at a cost of $150,000. In the same year, McMullen builds the biggest, most modern cow barn in the country, which was 20 years ahead of its time. Despite all of its fine features, there was never a cow in the barn due to McMullen going broke with the stock market crash.
This building eventually becomes the ice cream plant (1950)
Charles V. and Percy occupy themselves with a number of new projects. They invent the Cream Separator Milk Bottle and start a soda bottling plant in Ballston, among other various endeavors.
Soda bottling plant
NYS requires all milk to be pasteurized. Before this, most milk is sold raw by small farms to neighbors, but now these small milk producers cannot afford to pasteurize their milk. Charles V. and Percy see an opportunity to get back into the dairy business and create Saratoga Dairy where they begin to pasteurize milk for area dairy farms. Their new family motto is, “If it ain’t got milk in it, stay out of it!” In 1938, Saratoga Springs City Water Works becomes new home of Saratoga Dairy
The Dake brothers purchase the building that becomes the butter plant. During the War, with butter rationing, this plant becomes the largest butter producer on the East Coast. Despite this success, the butter operation eventually becomes unprofitable and is shut down. This building was formerly the McMullen ‘state of the art’ milk plant.
The Dake brothers purchase a small dairy and ice cream business in Ballston Spa from Don Stewart, who had operated the business since 1918. Included in the sale were licenses to sell milk in other towns and a freezer and hardening room for making ice cream. The store front at the Stewart’s ice cream plant on Route 50 in Ballston was re-opened to sell ice cream and milk. This was the first Stewart’s Ice Cream Shop.
First Stewart’s Ice Cream Shop
The purchase of Stewart’s Ice Cream coincides with the return of Charles V’s son, Charles S. Dake (Charlie), after serving two years in the infantry in Europe during WWII. Since ice cream had been rationed during the war years, there was a pent up demand for it, and sales were brisk at seven-cents for a single dip and ten-cents for a double. As the post-war sugar shortage eased, Charlie was able to produce more ice cream and eventually open additional shops in Saratoga Springs, South Glens Falls, and Latham. Charles S. (Charlie), right, joins his father and uncle
Stewart’s, in conjunction with the Sutherland Paper Company, becomes the first to offer ice cream in a folding paper carton. This continues to be how Stewart’s packages half gallons to this day.
Phyllis Dake, Charlie’s wife, introduces the “Make Your Own Sundae,” which becomes a trademark of Stewart’s. Stewart’s also joins with area T.V. stations to sponsor popular shows like “Hopalong Cassidy” and “Whirlybird,” a show starring a helicopter, while advertising their ice cream to a broad audience.
Phyllis (Philly) Dake
Charles V., Percy, and Charlie move all operations of Stewart’s Ice Cream to the big barn on Route 9N in Greenfield Center, where it remains today. Paul “Perky” Robinson is placed in charge of the ice cream plant, which leaves Charlie free to concentrate on sales and opening new shops. Schuylerville Shop 1946
Latham Shop 1952
Charles V. retires to the family homestead on Daketown Road, where he raises prize winning Southdown sheep. One of his lambs he names “Perky”, which gives rise to a very successful advertising campaign and helps to promote the popularity and growth of Stewart’s Ice Cream.
Perky, Patches, and Cactus John – part of the “Perky” ad campaign
“Perky Paks” – individual servings of ice cream in assorted flavors
Stewart’s sues the NYS Department of Agriculture for permission to sell their milk at all their shops. Stewart’s is not only granted their request, but also is permitted to sell to area supermarkets causing an immediate drop in regional milk prices and giving Stewart’s a large market share overnight. Stewart’s Dairy on Church Ave
Stewart’s purchases a helicopter for $39,000.
As part of the “Perky” ad campaign, customers collect “Perky Points” and can earn a ride for only 500 points.
Charlie brings his younger brother, William P. Dake (Bill), a recent Cornell engineering graduate, into the business, thus creating another generation of Dake brothers running the family business. Bill’s engineering knowledge increases the dairy’s profitability in just one year. Two generations of Dake Brothers. From left: Charles S. (Charlie) , Percy W., Charles V., and William P. (Bill)
Stewart’s Profit Sharing Plan is established to provide long term financial security for retirement. The 100% Company contributed Plan was designed to share the profits with the partners that help grow the business.
Stewart’s Shops expands to sixty-five locations under the supervision of brothers Charlie and Bill Dake. These shops operate under three divisions: Stewart’s Ice Cream Shops, Stewart’s Soup ‘N Sandwich Shops, and Stewart’s Bread ‘N Butter Shops. The combined sales of the Dake Enterprises exceed $20,000,000 this year and grow at an annual rate of nearly 30%. The combined success of these three divisions evolve into the concept of the general convenience store, which is what Stewart’s Shops offers today. Charlie (left) and Bill (right)
Charlie dies, leaving behind the motto “Make it happen!” Bill assumes total responsibility for management of the company, and carries on his brother’s legacy for many years to come.“Charlie Dake…always positive… effervescent…and quite unlike anyone else.”
Stewart’s becomes one of the first shops to offer self-serve coffee. “People wanted fresh, hot coffee, prepared the way they liked it. So, we made it easy for them to have just that, at the self-service counter.” – Bill Dake
Also during this time, the “Hi, I’m Susan” ad campaign brings widespread attention to the expanding offerings at Stewart’s.
Gary Dake, son of Bill Dake, joins the company, concentrating on our dairy operations. Gary spends 17 years working in our plant and dairy.
The new expanded dairy and warehouse is built in Greenfield Center. The 35,000 square foot building makes it possible for Stewart’s to make and/or distribute much of what is sold in the shops.
Philly Dake establishes the “Make Your Own Scholarship” Program to provide college scholarships for immediate family members of employees. The program is still in existence today and has provided over $3 million in scholarships to date. The first group of students to be awarded scholarships through the “Make Your Own” Program.
Stewart’s Profit Sharing Retirement Plan was converted into the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Employees now own 1/3 of the company which leads to an increased sense of pride and ownership.
“When you own something, you take pride in it. You make it the best you can.” – Bill Dake
Gary Dake becomes President of the company, and his father, Bill, becomes Chairman of the Board. Working side-by-side in the office they share, the addition of Gary marks the 3rd generation of Dakes to run the business.
Stewart’s Shops is named best milk in New York State, earning a perfect score for a second time. The prestigious distinction is awarded by Cornell University’s Department of Food Science.
2,400 solar panels are installed atop the roof of the manufacturing and distribution center. The project is projected to save nearly $40,000 a year in energy costs at the plant.
On the heels of the company’s 70th anniversary, Stewart’s Shops rebuilds a shop on Church Avenue in Ballston Spa – the site of the very first Stewart’s shop. This is part of a $50 million investment the company makes this year in shop construction as it focuses on new food service options.
The 2016 Holiday Match program sets a record for the third consecutive season. Customer donations along with the Stewart’s match raise over $1.85 million for local children’s organizations. The program has raised over $24 million to date.