Gifford's famous ice cream is made in Maine
The Maine ice cream processor focuses on flavors, distribution, customer service and employee relations. Those factors add up to a successful and growing business.
There are perhaps two days in the spring that New Englanders anticipate. One is opening day at Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox. The other is opening day of Gifford’s scoop shops, if the comments on the company’s Facebook page are any indication. It could be freezing or snowing in Maine, but Gifford’s always opens its five walk-up stores on the third Friday in March. The stores are in Auburn, Bangor, Farmington, Skowhegan and Waterville. Independent owners operate 400 other stores throughout New England. Some promote branded Gifford’s ice cream; other operators sell the ice cream under their own names.
Gifford’s employees do whatever it takes to keep these scoop shop operators happy. If a distributor doesn’t have a flavor or can’t make a delivery, a Gifford’s employee will grab product from the freezer and deliver it. Once, when a fire destroyed a distributor’s warehouse just before the July 4th holiday, John drove a truckload of ice cream to a scoop shop in Connecticut.
“Our mindset is we have to be there,” Lindsay said. “We’ll do what we say.”
The scoop shops serve as test markets for new flavors. Customer favorites include Grape Nuts (particularly in Maine) and coffee (Rhode Island). Gifford’s has licensed Andes candies from Tootsie Roll Industries for a new flavor this year. Two other flavors — bananas Foster and toasted coconut — were developed with suppliers.
This year, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of L.L. Bean, Gifford’s developed Bean’s Muddy Boots, a vanilla ice cream with sweet caramel ripple and chocolate brownie inclusions. Bean, based in Freeport, Maine, invited various companies from the state to participate in its celebration.
“L.L.Bean and Gifford’s share many of the same qualities. They are both family-owned, Maine companies that take pride in producing a quality product right here in Maine,” said Kelly Warsky, L.L.Bean’s partnership marketing manager.
During a brainstorming session of Warsky’s marketing team, someone suggested ice cream. Gifford’s is the only food company involved, said Laurie Brooks, senior public relations representative with L.L. Bean. Gifford’s presented five concepts and the committee picked Muddy Boots. (The boot was Bean’s first product.)
The flavor is sold only at Gifford’s five family-owned scoop shops and at independent stands, restaurants, colleges, universities, hospitals and hotels throughout New England, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia. Sale proceeds, expected to be $8,000 to $10,000, will be donated to Healthy Hometowns, a nonprofit Maine-based program that encourages an active lifestyle through outdoor recreation.
In the community, Gifford’s supports its scoop shops and the charitable efforts of independent ice cream stand owners. The Cones for Kids program offers a free treat to children 14 and younger who are involved in sports, academic clubs, music, dance, scouting and other activities. After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, Gifford’s sent a trailer-and-a-half of Stars and Stripes ice cream to the New York City Fire Department and to Andrew Air Force Base in Maryland. Every year since, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., has ordered the ice cream (a vanilla product with raspberry ripple and red-white-and-blue star inclusions).