Growth and Movement
When Michael took the reins in 2000, Farr Better Ice Cream needed to expand its production. Serving thousands of customers directly in 17 states, not to mention providing for large grocery chains such as Walmart, Smith's and Associated Foods, the Ogden plant was simply too small to keep up with demand.
"We were in the process of acquiring all of the land near the existing plant and ice cream shop, as the old plant had maxed out," Michael recalls. "When we got bids on new construction, they were much higher than we estimated, and that's when we heard about Russell's."
Russell's Ice Cream had been manufacturing its product at its Salt Lake City plant on 300 West for decades, but family members were looking to sell the business. When the Farrs learned of that, they began negotiations immediately and purchased the company in 2000. "We were able to acquire their plant here, which exceeded what we would have built, and all of their existing accounts. It essentially doubled what we had, all for less than the cost of a new plant," Michael says.
Through more than 90 years in the ice cream industry, Farr has continued to evolve. In late 2010, the company entered into a new venture, franchising Farr's Fresh Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt Cafes. "We've been operating the ice cream shop successfully since 1929," Michael says, "so we know a lot about the retail side of the business and were looking for the right components that would allow us to grow. It was the right timing."
Frozen yogurt was quickly becoming popular, and the nation saw an influx of stand-alone shops offering the product in a self-serve, weigh and pay system. The Farrs took a different approach. "We thought, don't just limit it to frozen yogurt, because it will never be more than 6 or 7 percent of total sales," Michael says. "We could make available to the consumer premium ice cream, frozen yogurt, gelato, sorbet and frozen custard in the same self-serve format. We could be an ice cream shop to all sectors of the economy."
There are now Farr's Freshcafes across Utah, with expansion planned this year into Arizona and Texas. This summer, the Farrs introduced a shaved ice concept called Hokulia, offering multiflavored Hawaiian-style shaved ice (not snow cones) paired with Farr's Premium Ice Cream.
"We heard of a place in Provo called Hokulia that was doing this quite well," Darin says. "The owner was so busy running the shop that he didn't have time to expand or franchise the concept. So we are partnering with him. Shaved ice has been around for many years, but we've identified the right flavors, put together a great looking concept and operating plan and think this will be very successful." So far, more than two dozen franchises have been sold, with the first Hokulia locations in Utah now open.
"So yes, we've gone from ice back to ice," Michael said with a smile. Getting their just desserts.