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The Inside Scoop

The Inside Scoop
Felix Winternitz

You could call Luconda and Joanne Dager chips off the old block. The ice block, that is. The sisters manage the industrious Velvet Ice Cream Co. in Utica, Ohio—a going concern within their family for some four generations now.

Before the siblings ever stepped onto the Xavier campus, however, they’d already handily earned the title of pint-sized “Velvet Veterans.” “Dad started us young, around 13 years old,” says Luconda, a 1991 communication arts graduate who now serves as president of the business. “We would talk the ice cream industry around the kitchen table.”

Today, the sisters’ frosty enterprise ships out better than 6 million gallons of frigid dessert each year. The company’s corporate office is in an old-fashioned gristmill, constructed circa 1817, that comes complete with an ice cream parlor, family restaurant, museum and gift shop that attracts 150,000 schoolchildren and tourists each year. The historic mill is a trademark pictured on all Velvet packaging, as an iconic symbol of tradition and stability. “All ice creams are good, of course, it’s just that some are better than others,” says Luconda. “And the old mill is our identity.”

Before anyone can accuse the Dager duo of immodesty—or, worse, of showing off their dairy airs—it should be pointed out that they have every reason to boast. They come by their polar pedigree honestly, as the great granddaughters of the founder. Today, the two crisscross the country for Velvet while managing to pay attention to day-to-day operations.

“Institutional sales, that’s the fun part of my job,” says Joanne, a 1995 advertising graduate and the company’s vice president who lists among her clients Bob Evans, Max & Erma’s, the Frisch’s Big Boy chain, Meijer’s, bigg’s and the ubiquitous Walmart.

Don’t look for these two top bananas to split anytime soon though. While tension among kinfolk might undercut some other domestic dynasties, divisions are kept at a minimum here.

“We’ve always said we’re a family,” says Luconda. “We were raised very Catholic. My mom and dad are both Lebanese, so we were brought up in a very stable family unit. We bring that stability to work every day. We each have our own, defined role. We wear different hats, so there’s not much overlap.”

“There are certainly family decisions we all make together,” Joanne says. “Dad is 72, but he’s still chairman of the board.”

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