For nine generations and nearly 290 years, the farmland off South Fountain Green Road in Bel Air has been home to members of the Dallam family. It is there that David and Kate Dallam opened Broom's Bloom Dairy, an ice cream shop and small cafe that in turn created a sort of ever-growing extended family among the owners and employees.
That's exactly how Kate Dallam likes it.
"I never wanted a revolving door of employees. I don't like places that are constantly hiring new people," she said. "I like to develop relationships with people. I'm here every day. I actually work the floor and do every job in the place, which is one thing that growing up on a dairy farm teaches you: that you're not too good for any job. I like to have a feeling of trust and loyalty between us. I do everything I can to support them. I hire a lot of kids when they're young, and I like to remain involved in their lives.
Janey Wolff, who is charge of ice cream production for Broom's, said one key reason the dairy is a good workplace is the "utmost respect" the Dallams have for their employees.
"The reason why I enjoy working here is the workplace is flexible," she said. "Kate and David are respectful and family-oriented. … They truly appreciate everything we do for them."
The Dallams both grew up on farms, David on his family's land in Bel Air and Kate on a dairy farm in Churchville. David was in elementary school when his father died in 1972, and for years there was less farming on the property, which came into the family in 1726 with original landowner John Broom. The family held on to the land, however, even though it was prime real estate in developing Bel Air.
David later worked for Kate's father, and the couple began milking cows together in 1991, around the time they married. Six years later, they opened a dairy barn on the Dallam land. Kate sought a foothold in direct sales and looked to establish a customer base at farmers' markets. But the family farm, off a main road that connects with Interstate 95, turned out to be a good location, and she opened an ice cream shop and cafe in 2004. (David still milks cows and raises pigs on the farm.)
"I kind of pictured it as just like a snowball stand," Kate recalled. But her husband and brother, and a friend who was helping build the store thought otherwise — they didn't want to have to construct another building if the business needed to expand.
"That kind of made me realize I have a lot of space to do more than just ice cream," Dallam said. "I had these great employees I wanted to be able to pay year-round. I needed to diversify my products to get more people here."
In addition to the ice cream, specialties include crab soups and homemade sweet tea; there's also artisan cheese, pork sausage, free-range eggs and locally produced meat available for sale.
Broom's Bloom Dairy employs more than 50 people during peak months, and the large network of staff that Dallam has built relationships with means that if someone needs to miss a day, there's rarely any difficulty finding someone able and willing to fill in.
Even those who no longer work at the shop love to come back to visit.
"When there are breaks from college, my backroom is full of old employees," Dallam said. "They're comfortable coming in anytime. And I like that."
At A Glance
Sector: Ice cream store and market
Local employees: 53