In 1926, the Macomb Dairy Company started operations in a brand new building at 217 S. Lafayette, built similar to the neighboring Ford Motor Company Building (now the Western Illinois Museum). The building included Burnhams grocery and the dairy. The dairy sold milk from local suppliers, butter, buttermilk, and other dairy products as demand warranted, one of which was ice cream. The dairy remained at 217 S. Lafayette until 1955, when it moved across the street to 210 S. Lafayette.
Anton Johnson and Elmer Larson, both of Peoria, were the promoters of the original Macomb Dairy Company (1926), along with JWM Pannell, of St. Louis, who became foreman. Milk for the dairy was bought from local farmers, then clarified, pasteurized and bottled in the factory using sanitary methods. The 1940 Macomb City Directory Ad for the Macomb Dairy Co. promotes Pasteurized Milk, Cream, Cottage Cheese, Butter and ICE CREAM.
Anton Johnson, one of the original owners of the Macomb Dairy, sold the business to WH Kibbe and Earl Swanson in 1937. Johnson went on to manage the Pace Hotel, served in Congress and was Mayor of Macomb. He also served on the Macomb Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, and Macomb School Board, and organized the first community chest drive in Macomb.
Between 1926 and 1978, dairy products were sold wholesale and retail to local establishments and residents. An ice cream counter and soda fountain was installed so that adults and kids could stop in for an ice cream treat. Vanilla ice cream was the original and favorite flavor, but was soon joined by chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan, lemon, and a variety of fruit flavors.
In 2000, “Papa” Don Mueller reopened the building at 210 S. Lafayette Street, calling it The Old Dairy. A limited dining menu and the ever popular ice cream counter were available once again. Kids, young and old, again flocked to the dairy for ice cream cones and shakes, with the local adults often telling stories of their younger days when they had visited the earlier dairy. In 2011, Emily and Mark Gamage took over The Old Dairy and continue to run it today. They graciously host Western Illinois Museum’s annual Ice Cream Tasting Festival.