Ashby’s Sterling Ice Cream – History


In 1984, Tom Davis and his brothers Rick, Gary, and Jim owners of Tom Davis and Sons Dairy Co. recognized the need in the market for a value priced, old fashioned, quality ice cream.  They wanted to fill the gap between regular supermarket ice cream and the expensive super premium ice cream. The brothers wanted to produce an old fashioned ice cream like they enjoyed as kids growing up in Detroit. It was a time when Detroit had many small ice cream makers that crafted their products with pride, using only the best ingredients.   


The brothers tasted and tested many formulas before settling upon an ice cream with a balance of 14% butterfat and 85% overrun. Their new “old fashioned” ice cream was made without the supermarket ice cream fillers like whey and buttermilk powders. It WAS the creamy refreshing ice cream of a generation gone by. The guys knew their new ice cream had to look as good as it tasted. Great care had to be used in blending the product in order to create appealing, colorful, and unique flavors. In addition, the ice cream would call for lots of the “good stuff” in each scoop.


This lead to the Davis’ Mission Statement:  “To make ice cream that our employees and customers are proud to sell. To make ice cream that consumers enjoy and appreciate above others.  To make and sell ice cream with integrity, values, and respect for all involved.”


Many names were considered for the new ice cream. The name had to shout “quality,” as well as, speak to their Welsh heritage. The name Ashby’s was originally recommended by a vendor calling on Tom, but no decision was made. Until, one summer day in 1984, Tom was crossing Washington Boulevard in Detroit’s downtown. A trolley running up and down the boulevard decided to run a red light. The operator’s bell was clanging away as Tom jumped back to avoid being hit. As the trolley passed, the name on the side of the car, Ashby & Whorten, rang as loud as the trolley’s bell. Ashby’s was the name, but how to make it scream quality? Webster’s Dictionary took care of that part. According to Webster’s, Sterling is “the measure of purity and quality.” The quality scream was added to the clanging bell and a name as great as the ice cream was born. 


What flavors should be the first? With the formula in place for the ice cream mix, great ingredients had to be equal to the mix. The first 8 flavors were manufactured and sold in February, 1985 in the Detroit area.  The original flavors included: French Vanilla, Chocolate, Butter Pecan, German Chocolate Cake, Strawberry, Mint Cookie, Praline-N-Pecan, and Chocolate Chips ‘N Chunks. Today, the flavor list includes over sixty flavors of ice cream, sherbet, sorbet, and no sugar added items sold in 23 states to every area of the foodservice industry requiring a quality and memorable ice cream.


For 30 years, the formula remains exactly the same quality which has lead to numerous “Blue Ribbons” from the National Ice Cream Retailers Association, the World Dairy Expo, Industry Dairy Judges, and the Los Angeles County Fair.  In addition, Ashby’s has won “Best New Flavor” awards many times at the NICRA conventions for its unique flavor creations. The right blend of cream, milk, sweeteners and the best ingredients continues to swell the ranks of Ashby’s loyal followers.


Ashby’s Sterling Ice Cream is proudly produced in Michigan on the shores of Lake Michigan.