Shaw's Ice Cream celebrates 70 years

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This October, Shaw’s Ice Cream will be moving into a new manufacturing facility in Tillsonburg about five times the size of the current plant in St. Thomas with better amenities and equipment to make manufacturing more efficient.

“We love our little 1950s plant but something had to give in order for us to continue making the Shaw’s brand the very best we could,” Kelly Heleniak said.

Heleniak, Kim McCutchen and Kristine Hayes took a leap of faith when they bought Shaw’s Ice Cream in 2001.

The sisters, all in their early 20s at the time, had been operating a family ice cream shop in Tillsonburg when they learned Shaw’s was closing.

“Mac’s, a big company out of Toronto, they’re like, ‘What do we want with this ice cream plant? Let’s just close the doors, sell the assets,’” Heleniak said. “We were customers of Shaw’s and that’s how we heard about the sale.”

Carl Shaw had established Shaw’s Ice Cream in 1948 after spending years in the dairy business. He built an ice cream plant in 1952 in St. Thomas where it remains to this day. Seven years later Shaw added a dairy bar. He sold the business to his sons in 1958.


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In the Spring of 2001, Shaw’s had told all of its customers to find another supplier because it was closing, Heleniak said.

“We were young, ambitious and all in university at the time,” Heleniak said. “At the time (we purchased it), because they had told all their wholesale customers to go find a new supplier, that’s what everybody did. So, by the time we took over, we had no customers.”

Shaw’s Ice Cream can now be found on shelves and in restaurants all across Southwestern Ontario.

Heleniak said Shaw’s uses only quality ingredients including 100 per cent Canadian dairy.

Shaw’s Ice Cream makes products for a number of other companies, something Heleniak, McCutchen and Hayes introduced to the business.

“Behind these walls we make a line of organic ice cream, soft serve mix, yogurt mix and a variety of other frozen indulgences,” Heleniak said.

The dairy bar in St. Thomas, which was renovated in 2014, offers 45 different flavours and remains a staple for residents and tourists. Shaw’s offers traditional flavours such as butter pecan, chocolate and mint chip but has unique ones like banana cream pie.

70th anniversary

Shaw’s Ice Cream will be celebrating its 70th anniversary Saturday with a party featuring a Ferris wheel, photo booth, prizes, music and face painting.

“It’s a big appreciation day for our customers.”

Heleniak attributes the success of the company to having a business-minded family and being so young when they bought it – Heleniak and Hayes (twins) were 20 and McCutchen was 22.

“I think just being young and ambitious and just that idea that we can do anything gave us the courage,” Heleniak said.

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