FARMINGTON — Randall Gifford, the founder of the iconic Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream that began as a small dairy in Skowhegan, has died at the age of 90.

Gifford passed away on Monday, May 21. He started the business with his wife, Audrey, after purchasing a small dairy farm in Farmington in 1971. Both had grown up in the dairy business and ran a small mill business and ice cream shop in Connecticut for 17 years before coming to Maine where they operated Gifford’s Dairy Inc. in Farmington and later Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream in Skowhegan.

According to the company’s website, the Giffords began producing small batches of ice cream using Audrey’s parents recipes for strawberry, peach, wild blueberry and coffee. The company opened its first seasonal ice cream stand in Skowhegan in 1980, followed by one in Farmington two years later. Today, there are seasonal stands in Auburn, Bangor, Farmington, Skowhegan and Waterville.

Gifford sold the milk portion of his business in 1983 to Oakhurst Dairy, which is headquartered in Portland. His sons took over the ice cream portion of the business, transforming the milk plant into an ice cream factory. In 1987, Gifford’s purchased the former Rummel’s Ice Cream stand and minigolf in Waterville.

In 2011 Gifford’s expanded into Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia when it purchased the similarly named Gifford’s Ice Cream & Candy. In 2016, the company unveiled a 3,810-square-foot expansion which doubled production capacity. The company also signed a three-year partnership with the Boston Bruins which included a custom flavor, Power Play Fudge. Today, Gifford’s sells about 1.7 million gallons of ice cream annually, and has more than 100 flavors of ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbets and sorbets.

All the while, Gifford’s remained a family business, operated and staffed by Gifford’s children and grandchildren.

Gifford’s is acclaimed in the ice cream world, having been crowned the Ice Cream Grand Champion at the World Dairy Expo five times in a row.

In an obituary published by the Sun Journal, Gifford and his wife wintered in Florida after they retired. They were avid travelers, having visited every state except Hawaii. In a 2011 Portland Press Herald article, Gifford recalled the hard work during the early days of the company. While he delivered the milk, his wife, Audrey, balanced the books and raised their children.

“I can see her … answering the phone. She had a baby in her arms and the books spread out on the dining room table,” he said to the newspaper in 2011.

He said he always knew milk would be his business.

“When I was a little kid, I had it all figured out. I was going to have my own farm and dairy plant and milk route,” he said. “I was a dreamer.”

A Facebook post from the company on Thursday said Gifford died surrounded by his family.

“Randall’s legacy will continue to inspire our company and future generations of the Gifford Family,” the post concluded. “He will be greatly missed.”

Reached by email on Thursday, John Gifford, Randall’s son, described his father as “a self-made, hardworking man, who worked long hours to support his wife and children and he expected the same from his family. He was a dedicated, caring, faith-driven family man.

“He was the one that you could always go to as a mentor, or to bounce an idea off of and he would always give you a straight answer. Whether you liked the answer or not, he was an honest man.”

John Gifford also said the entire family was “deeply saddened with our father and grandfather’s passing. We will all miss his support, faith, love and confidence that he showed us all throughout the years.”

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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