In the 1980s Wade’s Dairy focused on wholesale, school and food service trade; watched home delivery continue to decline; and began the first of many relationships with computerization. Ray, Harvey and Don had since retired from the business; and Don’s son David, and Doug’s son Douglas, Jr. and daughter Susan, assumed control of the business upon Doug Sr’s retirement in 1984. As one of the last small milk plants operating in the state, Wade’s Dairy faced a dwindling milk supply as well as a diminishing ability to maintain market share among the larger competition. The new partners planned a major transition, and in June 1987 the processing plant operated for the final time, redirecting management’s efforts into warehousing and distribution. Experiments with new products ensued, including eggs, butter, cheeses and yogurts; and by the late 1980’s fluid milk accounted for 65% of the dairy’s sales volume, as compared with 90% during the 1970’s. Several years passed as the business stabilized in its new focus, seeking its own niche in the marketplace.
In the late 1980’s, Wade’s Dairy found itself in the enviable position of having several dairies bid against each other to provide our milk products. The ensuing change to a new supplier in the early 1990’s afforded Wade’s Dairy benefits including increased sales, greater profits, and less reliance upon the uncertainty of bid business. The installation of a network computer system also proved instrumental in the rebuilding and expansion of the business, and management considered the move of operations from the residential neighborhood in Fairfield to a location where the business could continue to grow. Shortly after relocating, temporarily, to Madison Avenue in Bridgeport, Connecticut at the former Dewhirst Dairy site, we made the decision to cease our home delivery operations. We had delivered to homes for ninety nine years and we knew its time had past.
With a renewed focus on our wholesale business, the expansion of the product line during the early 1990’s included ventures into fresh pasta, upscale desserts, fruit purees, sorbets, and muffin mixes. Also during this time, Wade’s Dairy purchased another dairy distributor, substantially increasing its customer base and annual sales volume. A dramatic increase over a five year period nearly tripled annual sales volume, and the future looked bright.
The rapid expansion, however, led to increasing inefficiencies of operation; and the increasing payroll and need for greater storage facilities prompted a renewed search for relocation options. In 1995 property in Bridgeport was purchased, and planning commenced for the conversion of the former Hannan Lumber Yard to meet the needs of a refrigerated warehouse and distribution center.