Antietam Dairy creates 'high-test' ice cream

April 08, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Jake Sweet's name is a perfect marriage of moniker and occupation.

Sweet makes ice cream and lots of it - about 16,000 gallons a year in his small dairy in Waynesboro.

Ten years ago, Sweet, 48, bought Antietam Dairy at 834 S. Church St. It was owned by Donald Meckley, who opened it 30 years earlier. According to Sweet, Meckley worked as a milkman for a local farm dairy and decided to strike out on his own. He delivered milk at first and two years later started making ice cream.

"He was Waynesboro's last home-delivery milkman," Sweet said.

In those days Meckley's ice cream was made from high-fat milk that only golden guernsey cows could deliver, he said. Today, Sweet buys the heavy cream base from a supplier. He adds his own ingredients, like nuts and whole apple pies for his apple pie ice cream.

Sweet said his is the last dairy in the Waynesboro area to make its own ice cream.


"It's high-test, 14 percent butterfat, the real stuff," said Sweet, all the while admitting that eating too much of the cholesterol-ridden confection can lead one to places like Green Hill Cemetery, situated next door to his dairy.

Sweet learned the business on the job and by taking the ice-cream-making short course at Penn State.

"Ben and Jerry's took the same course," he said.

Selling ice cream over the counter makes up more than half of Sweet's business. He also sells from ice cream trucks at carnivals, festivals, fairs and other events, and operates a small wholesale operation.

His wife Cathy and two daughters work in the dairy, as do several part-time employees, especially during the busy summer months.

"Sunday night in the summer is the busiest. People go out for a drive and stop in for ice cream," Sweet said.

Meckley had a dozen flavors when he ran the shop. At one time, Howard Johnson touted 26, but Sweet's ice cream during the peak summer season comes in more than 50 flavors.

Black raspberry is the hottest-selling, followed by orange pineapple, grape nut and butter pecan.

Sweet's ice cream shop is in front of his dairy. The back room holds the freezers and the stainless steel ice-making machine that's the domain of Pauline Diffenbaucher. She has been making ice cream at Antietam Dairy for more than 20 years.

"She is this business," Sweet said.

Diffenbaucher, 43, said she worked in the dairy part time during high school. It became her full-time job after graduation.

"It's all I've ever known," she said.

She said making ice cream, even as many flavors as Antietam Dairy dishes out, is not hard.

"I've got it all memorized," she said.

Diffenbaucher's favorite flavors to churn out are "the regular old kinds - chocolate, vanilla and raspberry," she said.

Sweet grew up on the hill above the dairy. He remembers buying ice cream there when he was a kid.

"My buddy and I would play 54 holes of golf at Waynesboro's public golf course, then stop by for ice cream. The same scene was repeated Monday as golfers coming off the nearby course topped off their game with cones.

Sisters Doris Muth, 70, of Annapolis, Md., and Geraldine Eckhoff, 68, of Florida, grew up on Chestnut Street in Waynesboro. They were in Sweet's shop Monday buying ice cream - chocolate for Muth and chocolate raspberry for Eckhoff. They remembered their mother, Lacey Eyler, bringing them to the ice cream shop when they were children.

"Now whenever we come here we raise our cones to mother's grave in Green Hill Cemetery," Muth said.

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