In 1908 the Frank Zarda came to America from Bavaria. He came through Ellis Island with his wife Anne to scout out the country before his parents and brothers the would join them. Frank's wife had family in Kansas City, Missouri, so that is where they ended up. In 1910 they were settled into their lives with good jobs and their own home, so he gave his family the OK to come on over and join them.
Bavaria is where they originated and it was a subsection of Germany
The Zarda family went on to create one of the largest dairies in Kansas. Founded by Frank Zarda and his brothers not long after their arrival. Their beginnings were humble. The family lived not far from where Union Station is in downtown Kansas City, closer to the Kansas side. As soon as the brothers had saved enough money they bought three cows to milk for profit. They would milk the cows in the morning and then pull the cart all around the city, crossing into Kansas to sell their milk. Before long, they had enough money to buy more and more cows and work their way up.
Frank Zarda with the brother's first milk wagon 1915
The Struggles of Business
The business only got bigger as the years dragged on. The dairy eventually moved from Missouri to just outside of Merriam, Kansas. They built a cow barn to sustain their herd of now 40 to 50 milk cows and began distributing from there. The cow barn burnt down not long after they had arrived, so they suffered a set back of having to build a new barn. Then, Frank Zarda was drafted into WWI and forced to leave the business, but returned home safely after the war ended. In the 1930's the dairy faced droughts and the Great Depression but pulled through it all to come out on the other side.
The patriarchs of the Dairy in it's last years
In 1941, Country Club Dairies, also known as Fairmont Dairy attempted to buy out Zarda, but the family refused the offer on several occasions because it would have seemed like giving up. During WWII Frank Jr. and Paul Jr. along with several employees, enlisted. Therefore, their nephews, Joe's sons, dropped out of high school to keep the dairy running through the hard times.
After WWII Frank Jr. passed away from cancer and his brothers bought out his stock. Frank Jr.'s children went on the start the well loved Zarda BBQ restaurants.
In 1954 the business bought a processing plant and filled it with equipment they had bought from other dairies going out of business. They expanded to offer not only milk to people in neighborhoods and businesses, but to grocery stores as well. They began to manufacture cottage cheese, sour cream, and bread in order to compete with other big businesses. Before long, they were the biggest. The company began buying out other dairies and expanding more and more. They were buying up dairies in Basehor, Topeka, Lenexa, and even as far out as Wichita. They ended up buying Fairmount Dairies as well, making them the biggest dairy in Kansas.
A layout of their pant, ice cream store, and gas station in Shawnee, Kansas
Zarda Dairy began to manufacture ice cream in new flavors and open up an ice cream parlor next to their distribution center where you could buy it fresh off the line. Their banana splits became famous locally. Not only did they open ice cream stores in the Kansas City area, they began opening gas stations and convenience stores to compliment their business.
Big Bossy, Zarda Dairies unofficial mascot that represented them in many parades and city wide events
The Dairy finally came to an end in 1987 when it was sold to Mid America Dairymen Inc. At the time, Zarda dairy had between 800 and 1000 employees. Frank Sr., an original Zarda dairy founder, is my 4th great grandfather. All of my grandfathers worked in and with the dairy in their lifetime. My mother worked answering phones in the distribution center and scooping ice cream in Shawnee to put herself through college. Despite the struggles and challenges the dairy faced in it's 78 years of business, the business managed to stay in the family and thrived.