Made in Our Hometown: Perry's Ice Cream
Updated: Monday, July 15 2013, 04:24 PM EDT
July was declared National Ice Cream Month by President Ronald Reagan--with that in mind our Made in Our Hometown report is about a company in the small village of Akron right along the Genesee-Erie counties border.
Perry's Ice Cream works with dairies within 50 miles of its home base to make ice cream sold in 31 countries.
Working there can be pretty cool, downright freezing if you work in the cooler. It's -20 degrees to be exact. The freezer is one of the final steps of the process… let's start at the beginning.
Ninety-five years ago H. Morton Perry bought a dairy in Akron. More than a dozen years later his sister-in-law, who was a Home Economics teacher at Akron High School, asked him to make ice cream for the school.
"He had a family recipe that was his mother's that was well known, I guess, in town," said Gayle Perry Denning. "So when he was asked by the school to make ice cream, he started making up a batch and my grandfather would take it to school with him that day."
Perry Denning is Director of Sustainability and 4th generation Perry in this business that now makes ice cream products sold in 31 countries plus New York State and parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Vermont.
It is one of the few ice cream makers that still slow-cooks the cream. Perry Denning explained, "It takes more time but it makes it creamier and more flavorful."
The company has more than 350 employees. Half of them work at the Akron plant churning out 12 million gallons a year.
Rob Gominiak is a relief operator and has worked at Perry's for 15 years. "I usually tell people--that's all I do is taste ice cream," he said.
Yet he still can't pick a favorite flavor. They make 75 flavors and are always trying out new ones like a popcorn-flavored one called "Movie Time".
Perry Denning's favorite flavor is Bittersweet Symphony.
She stresses that they do have fun. One year there was an April Fool's Day announcement about chicken-wing flavored ice cream.
That got some attention. Gominiak remembered, "Actually I got text messages from family members asking about it, and I told them to check the date. Being April first, then they understood."
Perry's has a new Lactose Free Vanilla. "It's the milk, so if you process it properly you can come up with lactose-free ice cream and it's delicious," said Perry Denning.
Perry's runs three shifts, one of which is sanitation, with a focus on allergens like peanuts.
And there's the all-important job of keeping it cold in that negative 20 degree freezer. "Everyone wants to see it, no one wants to stay in there," said Perry Denning.
Twelve million gallons of ice cream is made each year at Perry's Ice Cream in Akron. It's a fact Gominiak is proud of. "You would think that with the size of the plant, we wouldn't be able to do so much but we really do make a lot here."