Special to The Gazette
William Henry (Bill) Braum, founder of Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores, died at his home located on the Tuttle, Oklahoma, Farm with his family by his side on Monday, March 23. He was 92.
Braum’s expertise and roots in the processing and marketing of dairy products made him a true innovator. Braum gave real meaning to the term “vertical integration.” He was a dairyman, farmer, processor, manufacturer, and retailer of dairy products.
Braum was born in Newton in 1928, and raised in Emporia. As a young boy, he began his working career by helping his father, Henry, in the family business — a small butter and milk processing plant in Emporia. In the 1930s, Henry added ice-cream processing to the operation.
After graduating from the University of Kansas in 1949 with a B.S. in Business Administration, Bill went to work full-time for his father. He also met and married his wife, Mary, that year. Three years later, Bill and his father decided to specialize in retail stores and sold the wholesale part of the business. Following that, they developed a chain of retail ice cream stores in Kansas called “Peter Pan Ice Cream.”
In 1957, Bill’s father sold him the business. Within 10 years, Bill built the business to 61 stores. In 1967, a wholesale company offered a price he couldn’t refuse for the retail stores, and he took it. Bill kept the processing plant, farm and dairy herd.
Bill immediately began building stores in Oklahoma under the name “Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores,” opening 22 stores in 1968.
By 1971, there were 40 stores, and a new plant built in Oklahoma City, and the family moved to Oklahoma City.
In 1975, Bill moved the Braum dairy herd from Emporia to its new home located in Tuttle, Oklahoma. It was considered the largest modern-day cattle drive.
Now, the Tuttle farm consists of a bakery, a dairy, processing plant, a milking facility and a few thousand baby calves. The Braum family also operates a second milking operation on the Braum Farm located on the border of Shattuck, Oklahoma and Follett, Texas.
Throughout the years, Bill Braum has become known as a pioneer in “vertical integration.”
From the ground up, Braum’s consistently controls every aspect of the operation, including farming, manufacturing, retailing, trucking, advertising and real estate.
All of his hard work was to provide the best product at the best price to his customers.
Bill had three families that he loved and cherished; the family he had with Mary, his wife of 71 years; the family of all the Braum’s workers that brought him so much happiness; and his final family, all the customers that loved his products and understood how hard he worked to bring them the best products at the best values. These are the three families Bill Braum loved.