A staple in the state of Oklahoma, the family-owned company, Braum's Ice Cream and Dairy Stores, is celebrating 50 years of service. What was once a small ice cream chain has now expanded to 280 stores across five states.
Milking 800 cows every 32 minutes using eight 50-cow herringbone-style parlors, the “local ice cream shop” has become a vertically integrated restaurant chain and home to one of the largest dairy operations in the country.
Getting their start in Emporia, Kansas, Henry Braum purchased a small butter processing facility in 1933. Branching out into the ice cream industry, Henry sold part of his butter business in 1952 and began a small chain of ice cream stores he later named Peter Pan.
After college Henry’s son, Bill, pursued his interest in the family business and purchased Peter Pan from his father. In order to provide milk for the ice cream company, Bill bought his first dairy operation and expanded the chain to 61 stores.
In 1967, Bill made the decision to sell Peter Pan, yet he wanted to remain in the dairy industry. Keeping the farm, he continued to run the Braum’s dairy herd as well as the processing plant. However, due to his contract with Peter Pan, Bill was no longer able to sell ice cream in Kansas for the next ten years.
The family eventually ventured south to Oklahoma, opening the first Braum’s in Oklahoma City in 1968. Throughout the year, 23 additional stores would open across the state.
Growing in popularity, it soon became clear that the family had outgrown their processing facility located in Kansas. During the 70s, the Braum’s family built a 60,000 square foot plant in Oklahoma City along with a bakery producing items like bread, buns and ice cream cones for their restaurants.
To provide milk for the new Oklahoma City plant, the family moved their 900-cow herd to its current location in Tuttle, Oklahoma. Over the years the farm expanded into the 10,000-cow operation it is today.
To house this large amount of cattle, the farm uses 17 freestall barns holding nearly 600 animals each. Approximately 40 calves are born on the farm each day, with heifers returning to the herd and bulls raised for beef. Growing the majority of their own corn silage and alfalfa, the farm sits on a total of 10,000 acres of land with 48,000 acres set aside for crop production.
As the farm grew, a third processing facility was built in Tuttle, producing butter, cottage cheese and other dairy products for the small grocery section in each store. Bottling their own milk, the Tuttle plant operates seven days a week and bottles approximately 6,000 gallons of milk an hour.
Now 50 years old, the company shows no sign of slowing down as they dish up millions of ice cream cones each year throughout Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Missouri and Arkansas.
“It has been quite an adventure watching the business grow,” said Drew Braum, president and CEO and the third generation of the Braum's family in the dairy business. “My grandfather, Henry Braum, started it all back in 1933, and my father, Bill Braum, grew the business to what it is today. Now, I have the privilege of carrying on the family legacy. I hope to continue to grow and build the company for my children.”
To learn more about Braum's Ice Cream and Dairy Stores, visit https://www.braums.com/about-us/
A map showing the Braum's dairy farm near Tuttle, Oklahoma can be seen below: