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Home to the world's best ice cream

The world's best ice cream hails from a small city known more for its race tracks and touristy summers than for its dairy. But for more than six decades, this ice cream has been loved and perfected in a family-owned and operated plant in right in Saratoga Springs, churning out the award-winning flavors recently named the world's best at the 2010 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.

Stewart's Shops' French Vanilla and Dark Chocolate were ranked No. 1 in the world at the dairy extravaganza, with regular Vanilla and regular Chocolate ranked third in their categories and Philly Vanilla ranked second in its category. The five awards will be handed out Tuesday, Sept. 28.

Achieving global recognition was 65 years in the making and to celebrate the company's milestone anniversary, Stewart's had a birthday celebration at the site of the very first shop ever built in 1945, 170 Church Ave. in Ballston Spa. Ice cream cones and hotdogs were on sale, birthday cake was cute and devoured and Flavor, the shop's Spokescow milled around taking photos with customers.

Much of Stewart's success comes from valuing quality, customers, employees and keeping the operation close to the vest, said Tom Mailey, a spokesperson.

"A lot of the quality has to do with [the Dakes], who created a vertical integration, if you will," said Mailey, referring to the founding family. "We make our own ice cream, all in own plant and warehouse. About three quarteres of approxiamtely 3,000 items in Stewart's Shops are made and/or delivered to the shop by our company; we do almost everything in it."

Mailey said in addition to producing the majority of the products it sells, the company even goes so far as to handle the technical side of the business too.

"We have our own department that handles all the registers and ordering and technical side of things. Part of the warehouse is devoted to all the pieces it takes to buid a Stewart's, from coffee makers to microwaves. They're all on rotation and when trucks make deliveries they take some back to the warehouse for rehab and repair where they're maintained and then put back into service," said Mailey.

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