The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Dairy Store has come a long way since it first opened as Varsity Dairy in 1917, when it served all-you-can-drink milk for a nickel to those who brought their own glass.
In the 103 years since, the store has become locally famous for its ice cream, and soon will begin a new chapter in its history.
On March 12, the Dairy Store will celebrate its grand reopening in a new space at 114 Food Industry Complex on East Campus. The renovated, larger space offers more seating, with a view of Legacy Plaza; a glimpse into Nebraska’s dairy industry; and, of course, the store’s famous ice cream, as well as locally produced meats and cheeses. The grand reopening, which is open to the public, will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Attendees can receive a free scoop of ice cream. The celebration includes remarks at 2:30 p.m. Parking is available near the building or along the East Campus Loop.
The new space is in the same building as before, but faces north toward the Nebraska East Union.
The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources partnered with Midwest Dairy to bring dairy farmers and production to the forefront of the new space. The store’s south entrance includes a mural featuring dairy products, a wall with dairy farming facts, a photo of a dairy cow and a video showcasing dairy farmers. Customers are encouraged to take photos in front of the mural and share them on social media using #UndeniablyDairy.
“The goal with this space is to bring dairy to life for customers, allowing them to connect to local farmers, learn fun facts about the dairy community, as well as share their own love for dairy with the selfie wall,” said Kris Bousquet, farmer relations manager with Midwest Dairy. “Dairy products enrich our lives with nutrition, but also offer an opportunity for indulgence, which can be celebrated in this new space.”
With more than 100,000 visitors per year to the Dairy Store, Midwest Dairy hopes customers leave with a deeper understanding and connection to Nebraska’s dairy community.
Nebraska’s outstanding dairy tradition
The Dairy Store processing facilities, which have long been popular with Dairy Store visitors, are also moving to a new location — the Food Processing Center on Nebraska Innovation Campus.
Terry Howell, executive director of the center, has overseen the relocation of the processing facilities. Once the equipment has been moved, ice cream and cheese making in the new location could begin as soon as April 1, he said. As before, food science students will make the ice cream and learn about various aspects of the food processing industry during the experience.
“Food science students are getting exposed to what it takes to work in a food plant, what quality assurance looks like, what regulatory needs look like for food processing and how product development work in a real processing setting,” Howell said. “When they graduate, they are ideal candidates for jobs because they’ve already gotten to put their education into practice — they are pros.”
Once the new dairy plant is up and running, Howell said the plan is to capture video of how dairy products are made to share on the Dairy Store monitor. The video will allow Dairy Store visitors to hear from dairy farmers and university staff and students on the care that goes into producing milk, ice cream and cheeses.
“There are a lot of ways to grow the impact of the store and use it to support students, alumni and friends of the university,” Howell said. “It’s the front door to East Campus, an entry door to the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and university for people from around the state.”