Washtenaw Dairy celebrates 85 years
Washtenaw Dairy, a longtime staple in the Ann Arbor community, is celebrating its 85th anniversary on July 4 with a celebration featuring donuts, ice cream, live entertainment and street artist David Zinn. Washtenaw Dairy owner Mary Raab is excited for the upcoming celebration and believes these 85 years in business wouldn’t have been possible without the customers.
“I think there’s something about the business — we’re calling Legen-Dairy because we think it is — that has to do with the community and the customers … and the businesses working together with us,” Raab said.
Washtenaw Dairy first began its journey by selling bottled milk to its customers. According to Raab, the shop was one of 120 local dairies at its conception in 1934, and she said it may be the last local dairy store. Though they no longer bottle their milk, the Dairy still sells a wide variety of cheeses, milk and other dairy options.
“We used to do home deliveries back in the day and about half our businesses is distributing milk and dairy products,” Raab said.
Washtenaw Dairy has been a family-owned business since its founding. This was one of the main reasons Zaki Shafi said he became a manager, she said.
“I just moved to the area this past August and I didn’t want to work for a corporate company anymore,” Shafi said. “It’s my first opportunity to really have a sense of … crewmanship. That’s really been a privilege and a gift to me — to be in close communication with the owner of the establishment that I work for is pretty great.”
Keeping the business in the family pertains to the employees too, as Raab said she has had families whose involvement with the Dairy has spanned generations.
“We have some employees that are second-generation employees,” Raab said. “We have one business in town that we do business with three generations of that family all worked at the Dairy and now that business is a customer of ours. It really makes a big difference and I just love it when people stop by.”’
LSA freshman Jack Harris, whose his grandmother worked with the current owner, said both employees and customers are treated like family.
“People who know about Washtenaw Dairy know that there’s a lot of — some people call them Old timers, we call them regulars — who come in, lots of mornings during the week, on the weekends,” Harris said. “And they’ll sit and they’ll have their donut, their coffee, they’ll read their paper. Same guys come in every day and chat.”
The Dairy is also involved in the local area through its community efforts, particularly through their distribution of a hundred dozen donuts a day to nearby shelters and social justice organizations. Rabb said the Dairy’s most recent donation was for Perry Nursery School, a local elementary school with a vast majority of students from low-income families.
Beyond this, the Dairy’s philantropy efforts also include purchasing advertisements in programs and making donations, Rabb said.
“Elementary schools have auctions, we always try to do gift certificates and t-shirts for those,” Raab said. “We try to do as many of those things as we can and the whole thing adds up to about ten thousand a year.”
Shafi says the Dairy’s family-owned camaraderie, charity efforts and down-to-earth vibe has made the Dairy the hotspot it is.
“Not just the fact that it’s 85 years old, but the fact that it’s driven to remain true to its roots,” Shafi said. “The fact that there’s vintage stuff on the wall. I think that sincerity and intention to be fundamentally connected to the roots draws people.