Inside Dairy Bell East Malvern: staff member Emma Bell makes a milkshake. Photo: Paul Jeffers Customers Laura Karklins and Oliver Francis enjoy what may be their last Dairy Bell milkshake. Photo: Paul Jeffers
Lorraine and Graham Browne eat one last Dairy Bell ice cream. Photo: Paul Jeffers
It was a humble empire founded on summer days and sticky fingers.
But Dairy Bell will remain as only a memory for generations who grew up on the company’s ice cream after it announced an end to its 45 years of business.
The Melbourne company will stop production at its Malvern East and Sydney factories on February 27, with its five stores to then close whenever the ice cream runs out.
“There’s always a time to hold it and a time to fold it,” said owner Andre Razums, who co-founded the company in 1970.
Mr Razums said he was “very proud” of his business, which at one point had 20 stores across Australia.
“We’ve got a lot of satisfied customers and there are a lot of people who came to us as a child and now they’re mums themselves and they’re bringing their children in,” he said.
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Despite the popularity, Mr Razums said it was not viable to continue churning out ice cream while paying high penalty wages and in the face of falling profits.
“We can’t sell $3 ice cream when the hand that scoops that bit of ice cream is getting paid $30 an hour,” he said.
On Saturday there was a steady stream of customers at Dairy Bells’ flagship store and factory in Malvern East, where the words “Australian Owned” are proudly printed on the building’s side.
Loyal customers Lorraine and Graham Browne first visited the store 36 years ago as a treat for their children and have been regulars ever since.
“We usually go into the casino on a Saturday, and on the way back out we usually stop in for an ice cream,” Mrs Browne said, while making short work of a double-scoop cone of mango and honeycomb.
The couple, both 69, are such fans they bought Mr Browne’s mother an ice cream cake from the shop for her 100th birthday recently.
“You can’t beat this ice cream – especially for the price,” Mr Browne said.
Another customer, Laura Karklins, was knocking back a “blue heaven” milkshake Saturday and was devastated to hear part of her childhood would soon be no more.
“Me and my mum came here after language classes every weekend for seven years,” the 22-year-old said.
“It’s really good ice cream and the milkshakes are frothy but not too filling … I’m quite sad now.”
Dairy Bell is fully solvent and all creditors would be paid when it closed, Mr Razums said.