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The Boice Family of Kingston

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The business: Boice Bros. Dairy
Date founded: 1915, by Pratt Boice
Number of generations: 4
Number of family members now involved: 7
What it does: Process and package dairy products

How it got started: A century ago, Pratt Boice started New York state’s oldest family-run dairy, which processes and packages about 1.6 million pounds of milk a month into a variety of products. Second-generation son Richard P. Boice, 89, still comes to the office daily, and his wife, Helen, 86, comes in once or twice a week. But they’ve turned over the reins of the business to their three sons and two daughters, who’ve divided up their responsibilities to run the plant and manage routes, maintenance, the store and office.

Why it’s succeeded: Third-generation family member Richard A. Boice Jr, 53, who’s in charge but doesn’t like titles, also credits the low-key personalities of his parents and siblings working together, as well as the decision to divvy up responsibilities. Another factor that’s helped was giving up having cows to focus on the dairy and turning milk into a variety of products from ice cream to sour cream, yogurt, light cream, half-and-half, and orange juice. The company has stayed away from cheeses. “We’re small and there aren’t too many dairies left. In the 1960s, there were 20; now, we’re probably the only decent-sized one in the surrounding four to five counties, and only six or so dairies in the state. Part of the reason is that it’s a penny business. Another is that we’re competing against the ‘big boys’ and billion-dollar companies,” Richard says. And even though some might think they see each other more than enough at work, family members also live close together on a farm by Lake Katrine.

Biggest challenges: Handling everything from fixing equipment to creating and delivering new products. “The federal government sets the price of milk, and it goes up and down. We don’t know what we’ll get next month. Right now, the price is going down,” Richard says. The older siblings keep working to professionalize the business when “every day is different, and we’re up against some challenge,” Richard says. “This is a tough business and that’s why (almost) nobody’s left.”

Next generation: Two fourth-generation members, sons of Jimmy, who oversees maintenance, have joined. One works with his father in maintenance; the other works in the office.

Favorite moment: Hosting a party to celebrate the company’s 100th birthday last year with the longest sundae set out in Kingston’s Strand with 6,000 people showing up to dip their spoons in. “We have photos to remember it,” Richard says.

Website: www.boicebrosdairy.com

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