Here’s the scoop: Joy Cone Co. is celebrating its 100th anniversary. And in recent years the company has been on a delicious ride of expansions. What started out as a small local operation is now the world’s largest ice cream cone company. Producing more than 1.5 billion cones a year, it has operations in Hermitage, Flagstaff, Ariz., and Mexico City. In all the company now employs 1,000 – 350 of them in Hermitage. David George is CEO of the company, which was founded by his family two generations ago.
“We go back a long ways,’’ George said with a smile. It was George’s grandfather, Albert George, who had the dream of a business and made it a reality. Arriving on American shores from Lebanon, his schooling was limited to just an elementary education. But along with another Lebanese immigrant, they started their local baking operation in 1918. At first selling baked goods, the company eventually got into producing ice cream cones at Ulp Street and Brookfield Avenue in Brookfield.
Their company, originally known as the George and Thomas Cone Co., didn’t invent the cone but followed in others’ footsteps. Over the years there’s been debate over who came up with the idea and produced the first ice cream cone.
This much is known: The first cone was produced in 1896 by Italo Marchiony, an Italian resident. He emigrated from Italy in the late 1800s and is credited for inventing his ice cream cone in New York City. He was granted a U.S. patent in 1903. But a similar creation was introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair by Ernest A. Hamwi, a Syrian concessionaire. Selling his pastries in a booth at the fair, he had one product that resembled a waffle. An ice cream vendor next to him was doing a brisk business and ran out of dishes. Sensing there was money to be made, Hamwi rolled up his little waffle pastries and gave them to the vendor. When the pastry cooled from baking, the ice cream was placed on top – and the world hasn’t been the same since.
Over the years, Joy has grown and evolved, continually expanding and making its way into new product lins. It’s had its share of tragedies along the away. Fires destroyed two factories – both at 840 S. Irvine Ave. in Sharon at the Ohio line – in 1943 and 1962. At the time of the latter fire, the company’s products included paper drinking straws.
After the second fire, the company relocated to the former Deneen Dairy plant on Lamor Road in Hermitage, expanding several times since into what is now a sprawling complex across dozens of acres. And the plant regularly holds fire drills, George noted. As the years passed, the George family became the sole owners. Today the company is owned by the George family and its employees through an employee stock ownership plan.
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