Graeter’s Ice Cream has more than 145 years of history providing a sweet escape. Fourth-generation members of the Graeter family, Chip, Bob and Richard, ensure that the artisanal company sticks to its roots: using the French Pot process to produce ice cream in two-gallon batches.
Written By Karen Saatkamp Gerboth '93
Just two gallons at a time. That’s the way the Graeter family has been producing its French Pot-processed ice cream for more than a century.
“We could have gone another direction and pursued a mass production mode, but then it wouldn’t be Graeter’s,” says Louis“Chip” Graeter ’86, the fourth-generation owner of his family’s business along with his brother, Bob Graeter ’78, and cousin,Richard Graeter. “It’s just the way we do it.”
It’s a handcrafted tradition that harkens back to 1868 when Louis Graeter, Chip’s great-great grandfather, sold ice cream on the Cincinnati, Ohio, street markets. More than three decades later,Louis would marry Regina Berger, and together the couple moved to McMillan Street to make ice cream in the back room and sell out front.
By the time the Roaring ’20s rolled around, mass-produced,cheaper ice cream had made its debut, but Regina would have none of it. Instead, she stuck to her tried-and-true, old-world French Pot freezers.
Today, Graeter's is the only commercial ice cream manufacturer anywhere in the world to use French Pot freezers, and its two-gallon batches are the smallest in the industry. The company’s signature scoops of happiness have also impacted history, brightening the mood of many during the Great Depression and bringing a sweet escape for weary families during World War II.
“My family has worked incredibly hard, and we have been fortunate to partner with amazing people committed to making a great product and who are passionate about our brand,” Chip says. “By using only the best ingredients, the best chocolate and the best fruit, we also ensure a happy guest every day.”
One guest, in particular, rocked the Graeter’s world back in 2002. During her popular “My Favorite Things” episode of her syndicated talk show, Oprah Winfrey called Graeter’s “the best ice cream I ever tasted.” Internet sales soared, and the company soon found itself feeding sweet teeth around the globe.
“It was hugely surprising,” Chip recalls.
Perhaps it was Graeter’s special chocolate chunks, a throwback to the Baby Boom era when one of Regina’s sons and business partner, Wilbur, snuck some chocolate from his mother and poured it into a pot of frozen ice cream, that made Oprah smile.
Interestingly enough, that sneaky move led to the company’s best-selling signature flavor, Black Raspberry Chip, made with Oregon black raspberries and Peter’s Chocolate chips. It’s an “absolute must-try” for Graeter’s newbies, according to the family. The reason, Chip says: “We use more black raspberry puree than anyone else.”
With 44 stores—three new ones opened this summer—Chip, Bob and Richard Graeter are indeed staying true to Regina's stubborn passion for quality. Despite going from the original four French Pots at its Mt. Auburn, Ohio, facility to 32 French Pot freezers running day and night to meet demand in its newer Bond Hill plant, the company insists on never compromising its roots. It also insists on supporting the communities that have helped Graeter’s thrive.
Since 1870, the Graeter family has believed strongly in giving back. On a daily basis, the company donates bakery items to local soup kitchens in the Cincinnati area. Store teams also give their time to Adopt-a-Class, donating school supplies and time to inner-city youth. Additionally, Graeter’s is a major sponsor of The Rusty Ball, which has generated nearly $2 million in support of 333 charitable organizations throughout the Cincinnati area. It also contributes heavily to The Cure Starts Now Foundation, which fights to find a cure for children with brainstem glioma, as well as cancer survivors everywhere, among other philanthropic pursuits.
“We are blessed to be a part of Cincinnati and to grow beyond it,” Chip says. “My grandparents and parents taught us to come in every day and work hard, and we will continue to do just that.”