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Living the Sweet Life
Cool Job: CEO Leads 140-year-old Ice Pop Plant in Wheeling

By Catherine Zacchi

For a maker of flavored ices, Ziegenfelder Company comes with some very warm ties to family and community. The company has operated in Wheeling, W.Va., since it was founded in the 1860s. For nearly as long, it has been managed by descendents of the same family.
 
Ziegenfelder produces the visually distinctive Budget Saver Twin Pops in a “Rainbow Array” of six brightly colored ice pops in clear bags.
 
Originally, Ziegenfelder had been an ice cream and dairy company. After World War I, Abe Lando – grandfather of the current CEO – began working for the dairy part of the business. Eventually, the owner asked Lando to run the Ziegenfelder operation. By the 1950s, the Lando family had majority ownership. By the 1960s, son Charles took over management.
 
Today, granddaughter Lisa Allen is CEO.

Taking on the family business was not what Allen’s father had originally intended for any of his children. Instead, he encouraged them to find their own careers.
 
Allen envisioned a career in park and recreation management. She worked with Oglebay Resort for five years before building her own successful consulting business. In 1999, she asked to assist her father with Ziegenfelder.
 
Although their approaches were different, father and daughter learned to work together.
 
“He and my mother went on vacations, which at the time I thought was just that – their vacation. Then in June 2005, my father passed away suddenly at the very active age of 80,” Allen said. “It was then that our management team and I realized he had been giving us space to grow in preparation for exactly such an event. He was a wise and intuitive man.”
 
In 1992, Lando had called on a company little known at the time: Wal-Mart Corporation. Now Budget Saver Twin Pops are sold in about 2,700 Walmart retail stores; other national, regional and independent grocery stores; and several export markets.
 
Ziegenfelder’s success led to the expansion of its headquarters in April 2009. The 40,000-square-foot freezer warehouse will hold up to 42 million individual ice pops, which is equivalent to 180 tractor-trailer loads.
 
“There is value in our history – and value in moving forward with innovations,” Allen said. “We use some of the new social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Our Web site is updated constantly.”
 
Allen honors another value learned from her father: family.
 
“As our family grows, it seems that our holiday tradition is shifting toward Thanksgiving so that families can enjoy December holidays in their own homes,” she said. “Last year, our entire family was together — all 30 of us! We do our best to get together the first night of Hanukkah and celebrate by lighting the Hanukkah candles, saying prayers, opening gifts and eating traditional potato latkes.”
 
“I’m proud to be from West Virginia,” Allen said. “West Virginia is home to our employees and has been home to our company for more than 140 years. Our dedicated employees compare favorably against anybody anywhere else in the world.”