The frozen custard business has been a way of life for the Anderson family since Carl and Greta Anderson opened their first store in 1946.
But while Anderson’s Frozen Custard has been a Western New York tradition for decades, the business was actually founded in the Bronx. Carl Anderson was stationed at a military hospital there at the end of World War II and the couple decided to go into the custard business after meeting the man who invented the soft-serve ice cream machine.
In 1947 they relocated, establishing their first Buffalo location on Kenmore Avenue, then moved the shop to Sheridan Drive in 1953.
Holly Anderson was one of Carl and Greta’s five children, who were raised in the business.
“We would sit on the freezer when mom and dad were working,” she says. “I started working when I was 14, back when we had just the one store on Sheridan.”
But in 1983, when Carl and Greta turned 65, they approached their children to see if they’d be interested in taking over the family business.
“They came to us and said, ‘Who wants in? Because we’re out’,” says Anderson. “And three of us said yes — one of my brothers who was a restaurateur, another who was an accountant, and I was a teacher.”
Holly’s husband, Kirk Wildermuth, also joined and brought his IT expertise to the company.
Since then, the business has grown significantly. From that single store to six locations and a food truck, catering and nationwide shipping today — as well as a greatly expanded menu that includes their signature roast beef.
Along the way, key leaders in the business have retired, leaving just Anderson and one of her brothers as partners running the company for the past 12 years.
“The Family Business program was wonderfully helpful for understanding what it will take to move the business from the second generation to the third,” she says. “It also reinforced the importance of defining our company values and communicating with each other. The fundamentals of business like finance or accounting can be learned, but establishing a company culture and talking about expectations are critical — especially in a family business.”
In January, Anderson bought her brother’s portion of the company and now serves as sole owner and CEO, and is preparing her son, Torsten, to take over.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, Anderson says the key to success is figuring out where you want to go.
“Most entrepreneurs have two to five years where they work around the clock and are passionate and motivated, but that’s not sustainable,” she says. “You need to be a multiplier —bring people on, get them excited and shift some of that responsibility.”
At Anderson’s Frozen Custard, that means elevating the natural leaders — those with the multiplier effect.
“Most of our employees start here as their first job, so it’s important for us to consider how we’re treating them, how they’re included and given challenges, and then educating and training them in management.”
After all, those values are how Anderson’s rose to success over the past 77 years — by earning its reputation on hard work and quality products.
Written by Kevin Manne