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What goes on at the Brown's Dairy in Central City?

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Hey Blake,

What goes on at the Brown's Dairy in Central City? Is it a packaging plant? I see big tankers pull up daily. Are they delivering milk? Jon

Dear Jon,

  Many a New Orleans child, including Li'l Blake himself, grew up drinking milk from the dairy formerly known as Brown's Velvet and eating more than his share of ice cream from the Central City business. Pecan Krunch by the half-gallon was a personal favorite.

  Founder Benjamin C. Brown came to New Orleans from his native Canada in 1904 and established a small ice cream plant the following year at St. Charles Avenue and Polymnia Street.

  "The original business employed about four persons who cranked ice cream by hand, using crushed ice and rock salt," according to Brown's 1967 front-page obituary in The Times-Picayune. The newspaper explained that as Brown's ice cream operation grew, the business moved to St. Charles Avenue and Terpsichore Street, and then to 1300 Baronne St., where it opened in 1915.

  In the early years, Brown's Velvet packaged its ice cream in "bricks," rectangular boxes better suited for the icebox refrigerators of the day. Later, the product line grew to include milk, Creole cream cheese, whipping cream, cottage cheese, yogurt, buttermilk and eggnog.

  A 1960 newspaper ad touted Brown's new "6-acre, fully air-conditioned plant" on Baronne Street, billed as one of the most modern and efficient in the country. Its distribution area spanned the Gulf Coast. Brown was active in the community and was hailed as "one of the busiest and most successful of modern New Orleans' public-spirited citizens." After his death, Brown's family (which includes this year's Rex, Christian Brown) ran the company for more than two decades. The dairy is now owned by Dean Foods, based in Dallas.

  The ownership change also brought a name change: The company is now Brown's Dairy, with the tag line "Smooth as Velvet." The Central City facility expanded in the 1990s and, as you pointed out, business remains brisk. A spokesman says the plant now receives up to 15 tankers of raw milk each day. It processes and distributes regular milk, chocolate milk and buttermilk, as well as fruit drinks and mixes. Its distribution area includes Louisiana, south Mississippi and south Alabama.

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