SKOWHEGAN – A common thread runs through the early lives of three generations of Giffords: milk and ice cream deliveries.

When 84-year-old Randall Gifford was a kid, he’d wake early to meet the milkman. Sometimes he joined the driver on his route.

Gifford’s son John, 55, remembers rising at 2:15 a.m. to deliver milk with his father, who launched Gifford’s Dairy in Forestville, Conn., around 1950.

And John’s 27-year-old daughter Lindsay, who heads sales at Gifford’s Ice Cream in Skowhegan, fondly recalls joining her dad on a July 4th ice cream delivery when she was a girl.

Over 60 years, the Giffords built their family business into the state’s largest ice cream company, with annual sales of $12 million and a distribution network stretching into southern New Jersey.

Randall Gifford remembers the hard work he put into Gifford’s Dairy in the early years.

He delivered milk, and his wife Audrey, also 84, balanced the books and raised the kids.

In a phone interview, Randall said he can still picture his wife sitting at the dining room table juggling tasks.

“I can see her … answering the phone. She had a baby in her arms and the books spread out on the dining room table,” he said.

Gifford said he always knew he’d work in the milk business.

“When I was a little kid I had it all figured out. I was going to have my own farm and dairy plant and milk route,” he said. “I was a dreamer.”

Around 1970, Randall moved the family from Connecticut to Maine, where he was born, and bought Titcomb’s Dairy in Farmington.

John said working with his father taught him the basics of business.

“I learned work ethics, quality and collections, and how to talk to customers at a young age,” he said.

John said his parents always involved their four children in business discussions.

“We talked it out around the kitchen table,” he said.

The family dairy evolved into Gifford’s Ice Cream in the early 1980s, when the Giffords sold their dairy business to Portland’s Oakhurst Dairy.

The decision was made by Roger, 59, and John, the joint owners of Giffords.

Roger, Gifford’s president, graduated with a degree in dairy manufacturing from the University of Tennessee, and John, Gifford’s treasurer, has a degree in small business administration from Dean College in Franklin, Mass.

Lindsay, who has a business degree from Bryant University in Rhode Island, is Gifford’s vice president of sales.

Other family members at the company include Roger’s and John’s brother, Sales Manager Arland Gifford, and John’s son J.C., who is the Maine sales representative.

In addition, John’s sister Samantha, and Lindsay’s three cousins, Ryan Porter, Scott Dumont and Ty Gifford, work at the company.

Randall and Audrey spend time in Florida during the winter but live in Farmington. Roger lives in Madison and John lives in Skowhegan.

And although Lindsay’s home is in Gray, she frequently stays at her parents’ home during the work week.

Outside of ice cream, the Giffords are enthusiastic fans of the New York Giants, which John is quick to note, were New England’s football team before the Patriots were established in the late 1950s.

His family, he said, remained loyal through the years, and are unafraid to show it.

John’s license plate reads NYG1.

And J.C.’s son is named Peyton Elijah Gifford, a nod to Eli Manning, the Giant’s quarterback, and Peyton Manning, quarterback of his wife’s favorite team, the Indianapolis Colts.

Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or: jhemmerdinger[email protected]