In 1948 Bob Neal Sr. moved his family to Ludington and purchased 50% interest in Miller Dairy, then owned by Al Miller. At the time of the newly formed partnership the two changed the name to Park Dairy because of the proximity to the City Park. At that time, Miller Dairy was considered a full line dairy, processing milk and buttermilk, butter, cottage cheese, and ice cream. In 1948, when Mr. Neal entered the dairy business, they were making five flavors of ice cream:, vanilla, chocolate, lemon, French vanilla, and blue moon. All ice cream was packaged and sold in five-gallon metal containers. It wasn’t until 1959 when Neal’s business partner decided to retire that Park Dairy quit processing milk and focused solely on ice cream.
In 1961 Bob Neal Jr. graduated from M.S.U. with a degree in Dairy Technology and rejoined his father as a partner and plant manager of Park Dairy. At this time Park Dairy began to remodel the old bottling plant and turned it into a modern ice cream production plant capable of producing 600 gallons of ice cream an hour and in a greater variety of flavors. In 1964 Park Dairy changed its corporate name to the well-known name of today -“House of Flavors.”Business was going well and Ludington was growing and changing around the neighborhood where the plant was located. In the mid-70’s Bob Sr. partially retired and Bob Jr. opened 12 ice cream parlors with two friends. Unfortunately in 1979 the partnership dissolved and the parlors were ultimately sold to private owners. Many of them still have the name House of Flavors. The end of the parlors forced the company to focus on sales through grocery store distributors and ultimately co-packing for other companies. This business strategy has proven to be the most successful. Through good business practices, the company has continued to increase sales and be a stable employer for its 150 employees today. The two remaining restaurants, located in downtown Ludington and Manistee, employ an additional 130 employees during peak season, and are still owned and operated by the Neal family.
The most asked question… How do you make ice cream?
The first step begins when ice cream mix is prepared using high quality, fresh ingredients like cream and other milk products, sugar and cocoa. The mix is then sent into a large tank where it will be stored until it is ready to be used. Once the mix has been prepared and stored, the ice cream is drawn into flavor vats which can hold up to 1600 gallons of flavored ice cream mix. In a flavor vat, a recipe is followed for the coloring and flavoring to be added. When the mix is ready for production, it is sent through a maze of pipes and valves to three very large ice cream freezers, which work much like an ice cream maker you would use at home. The mix enters the
barrel of the freezer, which is efficiently cooled. As air is added, the soft ice cream is pushed out
the end of the freezer along more piping toward the packaging filler. On its way, your favorite condiments, such as peanuts, chocolate chips, cookie dough, candy and many other condiments are introduced to the ice cream through a condiment feeder. Once in packaging, the prepared and packaged ice cream is sent on a conveyor to a large freezer where it will become hard ice cream within a few hours. The freezing process is very quick! The wind chill factor in this large freezer reaches 100 degrees below 0! The hard ice cream is stacked on pallets and is ready to be shipped
to its destination. House of Flavors currently produces 5400 gallons of finished product per hour, or over 400,000 gallons of ice cream per week. Located just west of downtown Ludington for 70
years, the Dairy has seen many changes in the community and has responded by change and growth to keep up with the trends. At one time, the neighborhoods north of the facility were farms and the park was tall beach grass without a beach. Milk was delivered to the dairy by horse and buggy in cream cans on cobblestone streets, and after processing, the milk was bottled and
redistributed to homes by horse and buggy. In fact, the story is that the dairy was the last business in Ludington to convert to motorized cars in the early 1900’s.