A FIFTY YEAR HISTORY
Warning: history provided by Steve Steinwart, so “fact” may be iffy, off, or just plain wrong.
John Steinwart founds Meadowvale
January 1, 1967
After leaving a local dairy and securing business from customers like Sherb Noble, John opened Meadowvale in Joliet, IL.
“We used to call him Honest John. He was a relationship guy. It was all about the relationships. And people just loved him because of that. He made them feel special. His philosophy was to do whatever the customer needed.”
Meadowvale moves to Yorkville site
Yorkville had begun an industrial park, and Meadowvale was one of the first businesses in it. Though the move had John “mortgaged up to his eyeballs,” he put his faith in Meadowvale and took a big chance that paid off.
Steve Steinwart gets summer job with Meadowvale
John’s nephew Steve worked on the land the summer before he started high school, picking up rocks in the yard. “I pretty much swore that the next day John had taken all those rocks and put them back on the lawn for me to pick up again.”
Meadowvale sells ice cream mix to over 100 stores
“John was a great salesman. He could sell ice to Eskimos. He was just that kind of guy.” The company continued to grow as John picked up custard business with Leon’s in Milwaukee and Michael’s in Madison.
Steve Steinwart joins Meadowvale team in sales
After working for International Dairy Queen (DQ) in Mississippi, Steve joined the managerial team John was putting together at Meadowvale. Steve worked in sales for a few years before becoming general manager in 1990.
Meadowvale becomes an ESOP company
When John was looking to spend less time at the plant, he didn’t want to sell the company to outsiders. Instead, he sold the company to the employees. “The hard thing about an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) is you really have to convince all your employees that they’re owners. That means the guy that’s working third shift in the cooler has to believe that what he does affects the growth of the company, which can be a hard concept to get across. However, if they stay with you and become fully vested in the company, employees see their accounts grow as the company grows. The ESOP has been amazing for us. My goal is that every loyal employee is treated very well in retirement.”
Steve Steinwart becomes President of Meadowvale
After John passed away suddenly while recovering from heart surgery, Steve was elected president because, according to him, “there was no one else to make president, really.” In the years following, people integral to the growth and success of the company would join Meadowvale.
Jason Leslie joins Meadowvale team in production/sales
Jason worked in production before shifting into sales fulltime. “Jason really helped us go. It took a while. He put on accounts and we were growing at a steady rate. But then we hit pay dirt with Andy’s. And he had us selling more than just ice cream to stores (cones, toppings, candies, etc.). There was one year where ingredient costs skyrocketed, and the only reason we made money was because of the resale program.”
Amy Collins joins Meadowvale team
Amy came to Meadowvale right out of high school. “Amy was a breath of fresh air when she came in. When she took over the office, it was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. She could probably run the whole place.”
Jason Leslie makes unbridled discovery
“Jason also cut the lawn for us. Uncle John, who was big into horses, had Irish Rebellion, who was buried on the premises. Jay ran into his tombstone while cutting the lawn and freaked out. He came running into the office yelling, ‘Who’s Irish Rebellion? Is that the old man’s nickname? He’s not buried out there, is he?’ He didn’t find the fact that it was a horse much better.”
Brian Rott joins Meadowvale team in production
Brian started with us in 1995 loading trucks, and then moved into production and eventually became Production Manager. “He knows every inch of that place.”
“As somebody who’s been around for so long, it’s been great getting to see these young people get married, start families, buy a house. And they’ve been able to do that with Meadowvale. It’s fun to see.”
Brent Mander Joins Meadowvale
Brent has been here since February of 1996 and is currently our Warehouse Manager. He oversees everything in the warehouse. Past positions have included production clean up, running the fill line, and also using his CDL license to haul cream.
“Brent has spent half his life here – he’s grown up here. He understands how important the culture of an employee owned company is and promotes it. He’s a leader.”
Andy’s Frozen Custard becomes a customer
Though significantly smaller when they began buying their mix from Meadowvale (with three Andy’s stores), Andy’s was integral to Meadowvale’s growth. Today, Andy’s has opened over 90 stores, including 13 in the Chicagoland area!
Meadowvale produces 1 million gallons of dairy mix
Eddie Cajina joins Meadowvale team in sales
While Eddie continues to work in sales, he has also moved into food photography. “He has a great eye, outstanding personality, a total team player. Eddie’s a great guy to work with. He always deflects credit to other team members and just really embodies the company’s culture.”
Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers becomes a customer
Though significantly smaller when they began buying their mix from Meadowvale (with 2 stores), Freddy’s was integral to Meadowvale’s growth. Today, Freddy’s has opened over 375 stores, including 5 stores in the Chicagoland area.
Meadowvale has it’s first expansion
After gaining wildly successful business with Andy’s and Freddy’s, Meadowvale set out to expand its facilities to keep up with the growth of its customers. The expansion was completed in 2009.
Meadowvale works to become a team-oriented company that gives back to the community
A team-oriented environment has proven difficult for a company like Meadowvale, which has a shift that works overnight and a shift during the day. Without communication, this set up can build walls and foster “us versus them” mentalities. However, thanks to the work and compassionate nature of Meadowvale employees, those walls have been broken down. “Meadowvale has truly become a family, where employees from any shift or department feel comfortable and encouraged to work together and help one another.”
“As we’ve grown and become a bigger fish in a small town, we wanted to figure out what we could do in the community to help serve. So we do a food drive, volunteer at the Payton run and annual veteran’s dinner, have a build day with Habitat for Humanity, and sponsor a family for Christmas. These activities have brought the company closer together to work as a team, to take the focus off ourselves and look at how we can help the community. And that’s taken over the culture. When people are going through tough times, you see people pull closer and focus on serving.”
Image: Meadowvale (Steve) being awarded the Volunteer Business of the Year Award by the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation in 2016
Mark Newport joins Meadowvale team
Mark Newport became head of our Quality Control Department in November of 2014 and came to us with over 15 years of experience in dairy. He is responsible for all aspects of food safety and quality at Meadowvale.
“Mark is exactly the person we needed when we created our Quality Control manager position. He’s got a ton of great experience and is a true man of integrity. We’re better with him on our team.”
Meadowvale celebrates its 50th year with rapid growth
Our sales have spread to over 35 states and continues to grow. At one time our sales included an ice cream store in Alaska, but unfortunately, “Alaska’s ice cream season wasn’t quite long enough.”
Meadowvale produces its first dairy-free dessert mix
Meadowvale announced its first dairy-free dessert mix: Coconut Cream! We are proud to offer a clean, dairy-free label product that we know our partners have wanted for a long time.
Looking Ahead: The Future of Meadowvale
In 2016, Meadowvale bought a building three times the size of it’s previous location, and the team moved in 2018. This move not only gives Meadowvale the means to produce over triple its current production, but also offers new opportunities in transportation through dairy tankers.
Overall, the team wants this move to uphold and further Meadowvale’s mission to serve their customers with quality, honesty, and integrity. “We provide special attention and go the extra mile. We want to be there for our customers to help make their business better, whether it’s developing a menu, pricing that menu, or customer service. We strive to be more than an ice cream mix company.”