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Family-owned dairy enjoys growth in tough economy

Dale Terry, center, and his sons, Dean Terry, left, and Clint Estabrook stop by their distribution center in Spokane Valley. (J. Bart Rayniak)
Dale Terry, center, and his sons, Dean Terry, left, and Clint Estabrook stop by their distribution center in Spokane Valley. (J. Bart Rayniak)

Terry’s Dairy, a Colville-based distribution company, traces its roots to a family dairy farm in the Northport area in the early 1900s.

Owner Dale Terry still maintains the family identity, operating with his sons, Clint Estabrook and Dean Terry.

He sat down recently to talk about the growth of the business, which now operates in five locations, including Spokane Valley.

S-R: What is your family’s history in the region?

Terry: My granddad moved out here from the Oklahoma-Missouri area around the 1900s. My dad was born in Boundary right on the Canadian line. They had a homestead there. My granddad did a lot of mining and farming. My mom was born in Spangle. She was raised in Colville and my parents met there.

S-R: How did the farm develop into today’s business?

Terry: They were hauling the milk in cream cans to a creamery in Colville called the Old Dominion Creamery. Back in the mid-’40s, there was a glut on the market of dairy and the creamery said they could no longer accept their milk. My dad ended up coming to Spokane. Out in the valley, Early Dawn Dairy did a lot of home delivery and wholesale. They processed the milk and bottled it under a private label for my dad, and he started a house-to-house and wholesale delivery back in Colville. Once the route started growing, it wasn’t too much longer that they got rid of the dairy cattle and just started selling Early Dawn milk.

S-R: How did you get started in the distribution business?

Terry: My Saturday run (as a teenager) was from Colville to Wellpinit, Long Lake, Little Falls into Reardan. I always had to have lunch at the Longhorn Barbecue in Airway Heights. As the dairies were going through their mergers in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Darigold bought up Early Dawn Dairy. At that time they (Darigold) needed us to do more of their wholesale routes. We did house-to-house delivery until about 1982. At that time we were moving more into wholesale distribution – hospitals, government. When I took over the business from my parents in ’89, we had two trucks at the time. We built a new facility (in Colville) and we were running four trucks before we knew it.

S-R: How many locations do you operate?

Terry: Today we are doing five locations: Colville, Spokane Valley, Moses Lake, Pasco and Yakima. We worked out of a facility over by Spokane Community College for three years, and then we built this facility (in Spokane Valley). We’ve been here 10 years next spring.

S-R: How many employees do you have?

Terry: It depends on the season. We run anywhere from 40 to 44 or 45.

S-R: Where does your milk come from now?

Terry: The bulk of our gallons comes from a dairy herd out of Othello. It’s called Country Morning Farms. They have their own processing plant in Warden. They bottle about 3 million pounds of milk a month in jugs. We also bring in a couple of trailers from Lynden, Wash. Our byproducts – quarts, pints, splits – come from the Darigold plant in Portland. The ice cream you see on the floor is from Umpqua Dairy out of Roseburg, Ore.

S-R: How did you select the name Darilicious?

Terry: There were five distributors in Eastern Washington and North Idaho and we were trying to get an independent product out of Darigold. The name Darilicious was thrown out on the table with the logo with cows and the mountain behind it.

S-R: What are your other products?

Terry: Primarily we are dairy and ice cream. In Colville, we do a much broader line of products for full-line food service for the local area. We deliver to schools, restaurants, drive-ins. We sell ice.

S-R: Where do your products sell?

Terry: You can find our products in convenience store/gas stations, Grocery Outlet, Walgreens, Rite Aid.

S-R: What kind of growth do you foresee?

Terry: We are seeing growth even with the tough economy. We took a hit a couple years ago. We brought it back. We put Pasco in this spring. We did Moses Lake last fall. We run about 1,500 accounts. I’m looking at a good 5 to 10 percent growth for the next few years.