Weigel's started with fresh milk

CEO Billy Weigel shares his memories of Powell.June 12, 2017, 4pm

The history of Powell is intertwined with a local business that employs about 800 people across East Tennessee. The Weigel family has owned a farm there for almost 100 years.

Billy Weigel is the Chairman and CEO of the family business, and a Powell native.

"It was wonderful back then. It was the best years of my life," he said.

Weigel was born into a farming family and grew up in a log house.

"When I was a kid over in the log house we were still raising vegetables and milking cows," he said.

His grandfather bought the farm in the late 1920s to grow vegetables. Later, his father and his uncle bought some cows and delivered milk in glass bottles to your doorstep. It was a small business in a small community.

"My telephone number was 140. I don't know if there were 140 families on the whole system or not. But it was nice," he remembered.

He has nice memories of a simpler time.

"Back then everybody called their parents' friends Aunt and Uncle. Aunt Dan and Uncle Al. Everybody was introduced as Aunt and Uncle. We didn't know who they were, but there were so few people you saw that they were all kin," he said.

Their family dairy continued to grow, and then the business found a big new market.

"When Oak Ridge came in there were 60,000 people and we were the closest dairy, and you could haul it down there on a truck open with ice on top and it would be gone in 15 minutes. That was a break. He went from driving one truck to driving two trucks," Weigel said.

He said in the 1950s women entered the workforce and within three years, Weigel's home milk delivery business ended.

They still owned the farm and the Broadacre Dairy in Powell.

"My dad and my uncle were subdividing the farm because we had no sources of income. There are 1,000 homes now here in Broadacres and it was a farm. When I was a youngster I thought I would be a farmer and then bang, it was over," he said.

The would-be farmer became a businessman who built a walk-in milk store that evolved into a convenience store. Weigel's continued to offer milk but when Billy's dad died in 1974, they sold the herd and started using milk from East Tennessee farmers.

"We had farm hands first and then we had dairy men second. Jobs, and now we have over 800 employees in this little area of 50 miles," he said. "I think Powell has shaped us as much as we have shaped Powell. It is a nice place to be from and we're proud of it and watching it grow and change."

Broadacre Dairy still processes milk and other beverages and there are more than 60 Weigel's locations in East Tennessee.

Weigel has a head for business and a heart for farming.

"The good old days were the old days when I was still a farmer. A young kid farming. That was fun," he said. 

The Weigel's business is still expanding.

"We would like to stay within 100 mile radius because we still have our dairy and we still have our milk trucks," he said.

And Weigel's headquarters will remain in Powell next to the log house Billy Weigle first called home.

"This is where our roots are," he said. 

© 2017 WBIR.COM


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment