Washtenaw Dairy exemplifies all of the qualities of a quintessential neighborhood ice cream shop, while also boasting something significantly more. Located in a neighborhood slightly off Ann Arbor’s Main Street, Washtenaw Dairy opened their doors in 1934 and has a rich history of gratifying loyal patrons, imbuing itself within the Ann Arbor community. Their tremendous selection of homemade doughnuts, ice cream, cheese, and other dairy products has satisfied generations.
In this way Washtenaw Dairy has exceeded the norm of merely providing sweet treats, but has become a community nucleus for a medley of Michiganders: little league teams celebrating a close victory, fatigued high school athletes thirsty for fresh chocolate milk, long-time patrons reading the paper over coffee and doughnuts, new found collegiate lovers sharing a gargantuan cone, or the savvy shopper searching out local cheese. The people here are neighbors and friends, residents discussing important local issues. The people here know your name and favorite flavor. The people here remind all of us that tradition and consistency will always prevail and that a community staple becomes permanent by doing just that, supporting the community.
Manager John Hines tells me, “It’s really nice to come in everyday and have a steady stream of people who have been coming in here longer than I’ve been alive.” Hines’ tone conveys deep resonance, a knowing proclamation, an understanding that the bricks laid for this building long ago remain sturdy, that the splintered benches outside have character, that those benches have seated countless patrons, and that the tree out front–probably beginning as a natal shrub–now stands as a mammoth symbol of Washtenaw Dairy’s withstanding tenure.
Hines continues, “You come down on a summer night and you have people lined out the door…it just makes it a great place to be.” Yet, even in the coldest Michigan winters, it’s hard to imagine Washtenaw Dairy any less crowded, for while the summer demands ice cream the winter demands hot coffee and fresh doughnuts.
Washtenaw Dairy is reminding us of our history. They have provided a staple Michigan service for decades, and done so with class, genuinely caring and responding to the community around them. They’ve become an Ann Arbor cornerstone that allows one to seek doughnuts in the morning and ice cream in the evening. Moreover, they’ve been an unmoving community center, a place that has seen the ups and downs of Michigan, seen dog day summers and gelid winters, seen presidencies and lifetimes and eras.
The last thing Hines says to me perhaps stands strongest, for when I ask him Washtenaw Dairy’s plans for the future, he proudly states, “I hope it pretty much stays the same.” For the good of all that is dairy, for Michigan, for Washtenaw county, and for all the doughnuts and ice cream in the world, I hope so, too.
Check out their website at washtenawdairy.com.