By Andy Piascik
Joseph Niedermeier Sr. founded the Beechmont Dairy in Bridgeport in 1906. He established the business in his home on Beechmont Avenue and delivered milk and cream to residential customers. Beginning with one horse and wagon, the business soon grew to where Niedermeier needed a fleet of milk trucks, as the company began to sell milk products to stores, markets, and other retailers and wholesalers.
Relocation to North Avenue
In 1937, Beechmont Dairy moved into a larger space that the company constructed at 2710 North Avenue. In addition to milk and cream, Beechmont began selling eggs and cheese—all products they purchased from local farmers. It was around this time that Beechmont also began producing the item for which it is perhaps best remembered: ice cream.
When Niedermeier passed away in 1949, his three sons took over the business and made some changes. As sales to retail and wholesale outfits became the backbone of the company and customers ranged from Stamford to Middletown, Beechmont ended home deliveries. They eventually expanded the facility on North Avenue to 35,000 square feet. By 1963, according to the Bridgeport Sunday Post, the company employed 110 people.
The North Avenue facility had all the machinery needed to bottle milk and make and package ice cream, butter, and cheese. The company also made its own orangeade drink and produced several tons of ice per day for its delivery trucks. In addition, the North Avenue location included a restaurant with counter service, tables, and booths—featuring a menu of burgers, fries, and other food. Available in many flavors, ice cream was the staple and was served in cones, bowls, and large containers to go.
Beechmont Dairy—The Place to Be
Beechmont employees paid scrupulous attention to all the details that made for great ice cream, from selecting ingredients to production in massive vats to experimenting with new flavors. The Niedermeiers regularly went to trade shows where they kept abreast of new developments in the dairy business. The 1963 feature on the Beechmont Dairy in the Sunday Post included intricate details about how milk, sugar, fresh fruit, nuts, and other ingredients were transformed into ice cream.
From the time it opened, the Beechmont Restaurant was a favorite place for those wanting good food at reasonable prices. Families flocked there year-round, but it was especially popular on summer evenings. It was also a favored spot for adolescents who lived close by and often shared a “Trip to the Moon”—a large bowl of about 20 scoops of different ice cream flavors. In addition, students at the nearby St. Peter School who got straight A’s received free ice cream if they brought in their report card.
Competitor Marsh Dairy Opens Nearby
Despite its popularity, starting around 1968, Beechmont faced competition when Marsh Dairy, which also had deep Bridgeport roots, opened a restaurant in Fairfield—just a half mile away across the town line. Marsh Dairy did not offer any food other than ice cream and, like Beechmont, its ice cream was homemade.
By this time, ice cream and other dairy products had become more commercially available. Two grocery chains (Stop and Shop and Pantry Pride) opened stores not far away on Villa Avenue, while Cumberland Farms opened a store that sold fresh ice cream about a mile away on Brooklawn Avenue. Carvel also moved into the area with a store about a mile away on Park Avenue.
By the early 1970s, the increased competition caused business to slacken to a point where the Niedermeier family decided to close up shop. In 1972, they sold the building and equipment to Frank Nolan, who renamed the business Nolan’s Ice Cream Parlor. Nolan’s only lasted a few years before it, too, closed.
Beechmont’s brick building at the 2710 North Avenue location, with its distinctive arch, still stands after 84 years. Over the years, many other businesses have occupied the space and several are currently housed there. For people of a certain age, though, driving or walking by the building will always conjure memories of Beechmont Dairy and its popular homemade ice cream.
Thanks to Shari Niedermeier Thornberg for sharing her memories.
Bridgeport native Andy Piascik is an award-winning author who has written for many publications and websites over the last four decades. He is also the author of two books.