The Cows head office and production facility on Milky Way in Charlottetown are undergoing a major expansion that will add more storage and office space.
Chad Heron, the company’s vice-president, explained the 40,000 square-foot expansion project has been planned for a couple of years.
Construction on phase one of the project began in September.
“We like to avoid any major disruptions during ice cream season. Ice cream is still the king here,” he said.
That phase is expected to be completed in July. It involves more space for freezers for butter (salted, unsalted and cultured) and ice cream, as well as coolers for cheese (Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, Appletree Smoked and Extra Old Cheddar).
The extra space is needed as the company looks to expand its product distribution in Canada and the U.S.
Once that phase is complete, there will be a break from construction until the fall. At that time, the second phase, which mostly involves more office space, is set to begin. That phase is expected to wrap up in the winter of 2019, Heron said.
“It’s been a relatively slow growth, 35 years just kind of chipping away, adding a new location every few years. It’s at a point now where the brand has really grown and is recognized really quite well across Canada.”
The first Cows Ice Cream opened in Cavendish in 1983. Now, there are 13 locations across Canada, including popular tourist destinations such as Whistler, Banff and Niagara-On-The-Lake. Other outlets are in Halifax and several on P.E.I.
There are also two Cows Ice Cream stores in Beijing, China. The company operates the Canadian stores, but the Beijing outlets were sold as a franchise.
“It’s been a relatively slow growth, 35 years just kind of chipping away, adding a new location every few years. It’s at a point now where the brand has really grown and is recognized really
quite well across Canada,” he said. “I think there’s lots of room for us to grow. There’s whole provinces we haven’t entered,” he said.
Even so, Heron said the plan is to continue to grow, but slowly.
“We’ll certainly, over the next few years, look at where the best fit is. There’s probably a few touristy places we’d like to get to and then maybe eventually move on to the bigger cities and urban centres.”
About 30 to 40 people work at the Milky Way facility and head office.
Until the expansion is complete, the company will continue to house wheels of cheese to be aged in a space in the basement. Also in the basement, the company’s T-shirts and ice cream are made. The ice cream made at the facility is shipped to all the Cows Ice Cream stores, including the ones in Beijing.
The company has some special plans for this year since it is the 35th anniversary. These include reviving some of the popular retro T-shirts (at retro prices).
Heron attributes the company’s success over the years to “making a premium quality product” and customer service – both started “and preached” by the owner Scott Linkletter.
“The Cow Wow experience. You greet the customer. You chat with the customer. You make it a really special experience in the store for them. And then, you give them that premium product and people come back. That’s it. It’s really that simple.”