Truman and Phoebe Winegar, founders of Winegar Dairy, began dairying at the Ellensburg farm in 1949.
The founding of Winegars Drive-in Dairy came in 1960 when all milking females except one were sold to generate enough money to build a modern milking parlor, small bottling plant, and a retail store. The herd grew from that one cow to more than 60 head with nearly all the milk produced being sold through the retail store at the farm.
In 1971, eldest son Gary Winegar and his wife Margo became partners in the business and the Father-Son partnership led the herd of Holsteins to be the third highest producing dairy herd in the State of Washington in 1974. In 1975, the processing plant and retail store were expanded to offer pasteurized-homogenized whole and 2 per cent Winegars milk as well as farm fresh whipping cream to the Ellensburg community.
By those days standards Winegar Dairy was a small family farm even though it had grown considerably from that one cow in 1960. Our tradition, modern facilities, and top quality cattle made us proud to invite any and all to try our farm fresh milk from “The Little Dairy on the Country Side of West 15th.” Truman and Phoebe Winegar retired in 1988 and Gary and Margo Winegar continued to expand the dairy into “Winegar Family Dairy.” The milking parlor and bottling facilities were remodeled and updated and the product line was expanded to include 1 per cent milk. The plant started packaging milk in plastic containers as well as the old glass standby that had been used for years. To this day, we at Winegars still feel milk tasted best coming out of a glass bottle!
In 1992 Gary and Margo’s oldest sibling, Richelle Winegar (Higdon), told her dad that after graduating from CWU she wanted to stay in Ellensburg but needed a job. She suggested that since Grandpa Truman and Papa Gary always talked about wanting to make our own ice cream why couldn’t she come start that part of the business. So, “A taste of home, one lick at a time” was born.
After several months of planning, buying equipment and getting set up, the northwest ice cream garu, Bud Haxby, came to Ellensburg to teach Richelle how to make several different flavors and textures of ice cream. It was a true learning experience for Richelle. When Bud got to town the flavors Richelle had ordered for the new ice cream hadn’t gotten here yet. Bud told Richelle to put on her coat and bring her wallet, they were going shopping. On the way out the door Bud asked the store attendant to brew a bunch of espresso shots while he and Richelle were gone. They came home with maple flavoring, walnuts, lemon flavoring and some yogurt. The very first flavor of Winegar ice cream made was “Nutty Truman”, made from our basic mix plus some flavors that came from a local grocery store. Bud taught Richelle that anything is possible. They added several handfuls of walnuts and then added some of that maple flavoring to the mixer/freezer and let it start to freeze. Richelle asked, “How do you know how much flavor to put in?” Bud said, “How does it taste?” “Not enough maple flavor” she said. “Then add a little more and keep track of how much you’re putting in until it tastes like you want it too”. With that rocket science lesson, Richelle started making espresso, lemon yogurt and maple nut Winegar ice cream. With Bud’s invaluable help Richelle has since developed some sixty to seventy different flavors of ice cream. Some worked and some weren’t as popular but Richelle is not afraid to try most anything although a valley friend couldn’t talk her into making “jalapeno” flavored ice cream!!
The naming of our ice cream flavors actually started from the same philosophy. Winegar ice cream is truly our very own creation so why not have our very own names. All our names have something to do with our family or the Kittitas Valley here in Washington State. We know our ice cream is unique and we’re proud to have our family name on all the ice cream.
In 1994 Gary and Margo’s youngest sibling, Kori Winegar came into the business to help in all parts of the business. Kori preferred milking the afternoon shift because he absolutely didn’t like getting up at 2:30 in the morning to head to the barn. As Richelle’s family grew Kori took a larger part in the ice cream side and continued to develop the Espresso Coffee business that Richelle got going. Bob Hood, owner of 18th Street Deli was the individual that introduced Winegars to espresso. Most of us at Winegars couldn’t even spell it let alone know what it really was.
In 1996 the family purchased the property at 7th and Main in downtown Ellensburg. The espresso business took off and the ice cream continued to grow. The hardest business decision the family ever had to make came in 1997 when it was decided to sell all our Holstein cattle and buy all the milk and cream for our business. Gary had spent his entire life with cows and wasn’t sure what life would be like without them but realized the city had grown too close to continue having the cattle on the current farm. We thought about moving the farm farther out in the country but finally decided to dedicate ourselves to the ice cream and espresso business.
Kori is the Winegar guru of coffee. He really likes coffee. He has taken part in several coffee schools and gotten down to some simple basics. The number one basic is if we like the flavor then let’s sell it – if we don’t – don’t. The coffee flavor business is really tough because there are so many elements that go into getting that perfect shot of espresso into a drink. The bean itself, the roast, the roaster, the grinder, the grind, the water, the water temperature and the particular extraction machine all individually and collectively play a vital part in getting that great taste a customer desires. Then after getting all that perfect a barista can foul it all up in an instant. But on the other hand, a barista whom does everything correct can serve a poor shot of espresso because one of the other elements is off. Kori’s biggest challenge in our coffee business is finding a way to teach the staff how to brew the “Winegar” way.
In 2007 we’ve added a new Winegar location for our customers convenience. Our business travel from “The little dairy on the country side of West 15th” to “A taste of home, one lick at a time” or one sip at a time, whatever the case may be, has taken us through fifty eight formative years. We hope that our continued pursuit of distinct ice cream and coffee flavors, done the Winegar way, will bring a little pleasure into the lives of each and every customer we serve.
© 2018 Winegar's Homemade Ice Cream & Coffee. All rights reserved. Visit our two Ellensburg store locations 111 E University Way or 1013 E University Way Ellensburg, WA 98926 or our new Yakima location 121 E Yakima Ave Yakima, WA 98901