Alpenrose fate hanging in the balance. A look back.
This story appeared in the March 1, 2016 issue of the Southwest Community Connection on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of Alpenrose Dairy.
FAMILY FIELDS — Carl Cadonau Jr., Alpenrose co-president and grandson of founder Henry Cadonau, says his family created their first baseball field back in the mid-1950s to keep him and his cousin, co-president Rod Birkland, from running on Grandma Rosina Cadonau's rosebushes as they played. Soon, the family installed multiple baseball diamonds with lights and stands – and they now host the Little League World Series as well as dozens of local youth teams. For Cadonau, the diamonds carry generations of memories, and he enjoys the buzz of activity they bring to the dairy property. "I played ball on those fields when I was 10 years old," Cadonau says. "I coached my kids on those fields when they were 10 and 11 years old, and now they're watching their kids on those fields."
RISE OF THE ROSE — Back in 1891, Florian Cadonau began delivering milk by horse-drawn wagon. In 1916, his son and daughter-in-law, Henry and Rosina Cadonau, took ownership of the business – and "Alpenrose" was born. Henry Cadonau's son, Carl Cadonau Sr., took charge in 1946 and led the company until his death in 2004, when his son Carl Cadonau Jr. and nephew Rod Birkland became co-presidents. Over the years, the dairy has grown from home delivery to sourcing small family-owned stores, larger grocery stores and now superstores. Cadonau Jr. says he hopes to find a niche market for his dairy products in coming years: "We can't be competing with the big, big guys," he says. The company has also increased its co-packing offerings and now provides orange juice, organic orange juice and organic milk. Looking back, Cadonau Jr. says he and his family have been blessed: "Giving back to the community – I think that's paid off in a big way," he says.
STORYBOOK MEMORIES — Countless local children have fond memories of visits to Alpenrose Dairy's 52-acre farm. Some recall visiting the home of Grandma Rosina Cadonau (pictured) for fresh cookies after a school tour through the factory. Others remember peering into the magical miniature storefronts at Storybook Lane during Christmas in Dairyville, an event that was resurrected a few years ago by Carl Cadonau Jr.'s daughter, Tracey Cadonau McKinnon, who is also the dairy's communications and events director. Still others have come to the farm for the annual Easter Egg Hunt, the summertime Sundays at old-fashioned Dairyville, the plays at the Dairyville Opera House, the little britches rodeos, the quarter midget sprint car racing, the velodrome bicycle racing and the Little League baseball. "This place means so much to us; it's a part of us," McKinnon says. "It's so much more than a business – it's really special to so many people."
LOCAL CONNECTION —Today, Alpenrose's legacy continues to spread in Southwest. When Uri Kushner decided to open Dairy Hill Ice Cream in Hillsdale last June, he said sourcing from Alpenrose was a no-brainer; his shop's name even pays homage to the many dairy farms that formerly covered the Southwest neighborhood. "There's definitely a connection between people who live in this neighborhood and Alpenrose," he says. "It goes beyond the product itself." The dairy provides roughly 80 percent of his ice cream, and he appreciates the variety of flavors – nostalgic classics and modern favorites – as well as the customer service he's received from the company; Alpenrose employees showed up to help him scoop and run the store on his busy opening day. Plus, Kushner says, his customers regularly share memories of their visits there. "When you say 'Alpenrose,' it brings a smile to my customers' faces," he says. "That instant connection to what was and what is – it just works."