SKOWHEGAN — Guests and others got the scoop Friday on a $1.6 million expansion and renovation project at Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and five members of the Gifford family scooped into tubs of vanilla bean ice cream with shovels, marking the groundbreaking of a project that will double production and floor space at the Hathaway Street plant by next summer.

“This groundbreaking was the most unusual one I’ve ever been to,” Collins said after digging into the ice cream tub and depositing her scoop of ice cream into a waiting bowl. “It was a lot of fun. I’m glad at having successfully scooped with the shovel, because I’ve had a lot of practice scooping ice cream.”

The expansion is the largest in the company’s 41-year history and will add jobs at the plant and expand markets for Maine ice cream beyond its current 1,500 retail outlets throughout New England and as far south as northern Virginia and west to upstate New York and Indiana.

In his opening remarks Friday, co-owner John Gifford said the company is a fifth-generation business that got its start in the late 1800s when his great-great-grandfather started a home delivery milk and ice cream business from the back of a horse-drawn wagon. The Skowhegan plant dates to the 1930s, when it was a holding station for local farm milk to be shipped to Boston by rail.

In 1974, John and his brother Roger’s parents, Randall and Audrey Gifford, bought the plant from Hunt’s Dairy. They started making ice cream there in 1980. The first of five seasonal stands opened the same year on Madison Avenue in Skowhegan, where it remains today.


The first store to sell Gifford’s Ice Cream was Jimmy’s Market in Bingham. John Gifford said he knows that to be true “because I delivered it.” John and Roger bought the business from their parents in 1983 and sold the entire fluid milk business to Oakhurst Dairy and went solely into making premium ice cream.

“This was a somewhat shocking and a controversial decision,” he told those assembled for Friday’s ceremony. “To sell the milk business, which was 99 percent of our business, and to dive solely into ice cream — it was a very emotional, scary and maybe a little crazy decision at the time, but we knew we had a great product.”

They never looked back, he said.

Last summer, John Gifford said, under the leadership of a new generation of Giffords — his daughters Lindsay and Samantha, son JC and nephew Ryan — the company hit its all-time sales record, and it is on track to sell 2 million gallons of ice cream in 2016.

In their first year of selling ice cream, Gifford’s sold 10,000 gallons, he said.

Roger Gifford said the 3,810-square-foot, two-story addition and plant renovation are being undertaken to meet increased demand for Gifford’s ice cream.


The company sources its fresh milk and cream exclusively from independent family farms.

The company, which employs 37 full-time workers, hopes to add at least two full-time employees by next summer as part of the expansion. Gifford’s also operates five ice cream stands in Maine and makes more than 100 flavors of ice cream.

Growth at the Hathaway Street plant will allow Gifford’s to bring in two more large steam kettles, a new quart filler and a new shrink wrapper for retail packaging. These additions will allow the ice cream maker to run two production lines simultaneously.

All of Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream is made using antique 1940s Cherry Burrell freezers to slow-churn the most delicious, creamiest ice cream possible, according to the company, all in the historic yellow clapboard factory in Skowhegan.

In her remarks to the gathering Friday, Collins said the Gifford’s story is “truly a wonderful Maine story.”

“There is no better way of celebrating so many years of making ice cream here in Skowhegan than making more of it,” Collins said. “The Giffords are an example of a great family business in Maine. They’re celebrating their fifth generation. Only 1 percent of businesses make it to the fifth generation. This is an extraordinary accomplishment, and I have a feeling this is going to be a groundbreaking that I will never forget.”


Collins said the ice cream made locally and sourced locally by the Gifford family is a fine example of Maine craftsmanship and quality, unmatched anywhere else in the country.

“Even the names of some of your flavors, from Maine Moose Tracks to Muddy Boots, evokes the Maine mystique,” she said.

Collins said Gifford’s commitment to the Maine Special Olympics and the Stars and Stripes flavor ice cream that Gifford’s created for rescue workers after Sept. 11, 2001, are both examples of the company giving back to the greater community with gratitude and respect.

Also on hand with remarks Friday was Elizabeth MacTaggart, regional representative for U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine; and Skowhegan native Karen Staples, staff assistant for U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District.

Following the groundbreaking scoop, Gifford’s treated visitors to a dish of the Vanilla Bean ice cream and apple and berry mini-pies from The Bankery of Skowhegan.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


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