Sometimes a bowl isn’t enough. Sometimes you need a plate.
The Waldorf Ice Cream Co. of Akron promoted its frozen confections as healthful, wholesome, delicious and nutritious.
“Ice cream is such a perfect food for growing children that there should be a plate for every child in every family every day of every week,” the Akron company advertised.
Not many kids would disagree with that claim — if only their parents would listen.
Waldorf was the velvety-smooth dream of Axel L. Sandberg (1882-1957), who had operated a general store in the Pennsylvania logging community of Barnesboro. The Swedish American moved to Akron, then nicknamed “The City of Opportunity,” to open an ice cream business.
Summit County historian Scott D. Kenfield described Sandberg as “a man of strong purpose, determined will and tireless energy” who displayed “keen sagacity” in business matters.
In April 1919, Sandberg paid $8,000 (about $118,500 today) for a lot at 227 Beaver St. to build a two-story factory. The business was incorporated for $100,000 (about $1.4 million today) and opened its doors on the Fourth of July.
Waldorf made its confections with fresh, natural ingredients, including rich cream, pure cane sugar and high-quality vanilla and chocolate. The factory initially used wood cabinets packed with ice and salt to create a refrigerant for its products but soon switched to electric appliances.
Sandberg tested a few vanilla advertising slogans, including “Once Tried, Always Used” and “That’s th’ Cream,” before hitting on the direct appeal “Eat a Plate of Ice Cream Every Day.”
“This line is our motto, but the adjuration is for your benefit,” Waldorf advertised. “Probably you do not ‘Eat a Plate of Ice Cream Every Day’ — now — but you will, because hereafter you will be able to obtain in Waldorf Ice Cream as fine a product as careful methods and the best materials can make.”
Ice cream offered nourishment, allayed hunger, boosted energy and aided digestion, Sandberg claimed. It was made pure by nature and kept pure by pasteurization and freezing, he said.
In addition to vanilla and chocolate, Waldorf created more exotic flavors including butter almond, double chocolate chip, passionate peach, butterscotch swirl, vanilla fudge royale, strawberry ice and butter brickle.
Sandberg had a test kitchen at home. He and his wife, Esther, raised five children: Eleanor, Lorraine Alexander, Ione, Betty and Robert. Incidentally, the middle child grew up to be Ione Sandberg Shriber, the author of 11 mystery novels.
Besides ice cream, the company produced colorful cakes, frozen puddings and fruit baskets. Its cake decorations included lilies, roses, chrysanthemums, grapes and strawberries — all made of ice cream.
“When you see these green-stemmed strawberries falling naturally from a dainty box, you won’t believe they are made of ice cream,” Waldorf boasted.
Waldorf’s ice cream was served at more than 250 stores, restaurants and soda fountains in Akron, Barberton and Cuyahoga Falls. Within a decade, the company had grown to 35 employees with an annual payroll of $50,000 (about $750,000 today).
“We are making over 1 million quarts of ice cream a year,” Sandberg revealed in April 1929. “This is practically one gallon of ice cream for every man, woman and child in the Greater Akron district, and if you missed yours, be sure and get it this year.”
Waldorf became Akron’s franchise holder and authorized distributor of Eskimo Pies, those vanilla ice cream bars dipped in chocolate and served on wooden sticks. “M-m-m-melts in your mouth!” Waldorf advertised.
The public was invited to visit the Beaver Street factory to watch Eskimo Pies and other frozen treats being made. Not surprisingly, Waldorf was a popular place for school field trips, scout outings and club tours.
“Modern machinery at the Waldorf plant makes possible quality products in volume to meet the ever increasing demand,” the Beacon Journal reported in 1935. “These machines take the best ingredients and prepare them for the market in the many forms in which ice cream is now sold.
“Automatic mixing machines make the ice cream which is then hardened in large refrigeration rooms. Even the chocolate bars are prepared on a machine which cuts the ice cream, dips it into chocolate prepared from the best obtainable and then packs the bars in paper containers.”
Ice cream trucks
There was no need to make a trip to the store when Waldorf teamed up with Skippy Distributing to take the frozen treats on the road. Skippy trucks delivered ice cream to neighborhoods around Summit County.
Children begged their parents for pocket change as the festive vehicles cruised the streets while happy tunes blared from loudspeakers.
In the 1960s, Waldorf left Beaver Street for a new home at 1505 Industrial Parkway off East Tallmadge Avenue in North Akron, but it didn’t survive the decade. Facing a changing market and increased competition, Waldorf Ice Cream Co. pulled the plug after nearly 50 years in business.
Ice cream truck operators Jingle Skoot and Jingle Joe took over the headquarters and ran the former Skippy routes during the 1970s.
A century after Waldorf's founding, the general public still faces a gnawing problem.
“When your ‘inner consciousness’ obtrudes itself upon you with a demand for food, it is not a desire to be repressed sternly,” Waldorf warned in 1920. “Food is what keeps you going, and if you feel hungry it is a sign you need something to eat — even if it is not mealtime yet.
“Of course you ought not to eat just anything between meals. Ice cream is the answer.”
Although Waldorf is no longer served, you can still eat a plate of ice cream every day if you so wish.
Go ahead. We won’t tell anyone.
Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or firstname.lastname@example.org.