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Home to the world's best ice cream

Stewart's has another unique spin that sets it apart, aside from the home-grown attitude toward its products and production"it's considered employee owned, too.

"Employees can qualify for an employee share program, so they own a third of Stewart's," said Mailey, who said the company currently employees around 4,000 people total. "They qualify through a certain number of hours and we have a retirement plan that the company funds, not employees, so at the end of every year, the company puts money into the employee share program and at seven years you're vested."

The employees feel respected and honored, said Mailey, so they extend that same kindness and humanity to its customers, another characteristic he believes makes Stewart's so special and successful.

"We talk to our customers and the shops all have their own personality; because of that, customers all have 'their' Stewart's Shop where they get their milk or where they bring their kids for ice cream after a concert or ballgame," said Mailey. "There's conversation and our people know the people that shop there regularly, address them by name and you don't get that everywhere; it boils down to personality."

Before the end of the year, there will be another new shop ready to take on a personality of its own, said Mailey, and the company will continue to rebuild or renovate older shops.

"We put a lot of the money back into the company through the course of the year," said Mailey.

Stewart's has the best ice cream in the world, happy employees and longevity under its belt, but it has one more accomplishment it can be proud to brag about.

"We donated $2.5 million for the past couple years. What's really helped brand Stewart's has been the giving back and donations we do, through financial grants [for local organizations] and products for events," said Mailey. "Every thanksgiving and christmas we have a jug for customers to throw their pocket change in and we tally it up and write a check to match it, which is then given out to specific financial grants. Last year we had over 1,400 grant applications."

Information about all Stewart's products is available on their Web site, www.stewartsshops.com and to celebrate being ranked No.1 in the world, all full half gallons of ice cream will be on sale for $2.89 the week of Oct. 4.

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