The Early Years, 1888-1920
In the spring of 1888 two young brothers ventured into the rugged and competitive ice business. Fourteen year old, J. Calvin and fifteen year old, Fred, had started Getchell Brothers Ice Company. The company was founded on the concept of superior service to the residents of Brewer.
Originally, ice was harvested along the Penobscot River near South Brewer. Later, the harvesting operation moved to the Kenduskeag Stream just below the Bullseye Bridge and an office was established on Oak Street in Bangor. In 1890, Getchell Brothers was one of about 20 ice companies in the Bangor area; by 1920 only Getchell Brothers remained. During the harvest season, up to 1000 tons of ice could be packed away in a day.
In 1945 Ralph Getchell, Jr. built a modern block ice plant in Brewer using an ammonia refrigeration system. In those days manufactured ice was called “artificial ice”. In 1949 the first coin-operated vendor was put into operation on Hammond Street, Bangor. This was the first time ice was available other than by home delivery. February, 1954 marked the end of an era. The last natural ice was harvested from the Kenduskeag. Getchell Brothers moved their offices to Brewer and continued shifting their focus of ice distribution. More coin operated vendors were placed and in 1959 the first seven ice merchandisers were used to allow stores to share in the profit from ice sales.
To meet the growing demand for packaged ice in the tourism driven industry, the first Turbo Ice maker was installed in 1978. Throughout the 1980s, expansion of the company into southern Maine markets and the increased demand resulted in the installation of several more large ice makers. In 1995 the old block plant was removed to continue to make room for modern ice makers. This brought the ice production capacity to almost 40,000 bags per day. In 1999 a new plant was built in Sanford, Maine and today we can produce another 40,000 bags per day.
Getchell Brothers Today
Up to now you’ve read about the ice business of Getchell Brothers, but throughout the years, the company has tried several other businesses to complement the ice business. Lumber, firewood, honey wagons, brick making, coal, home heating oil, cold storage, and window coverage are the documented sideline businesses. These businesses provided the precedence for today’s Ice Cream Division. In 1983 the Sealtest distributorship started the ice cream business. Since then, the addition of Gifford’s, Ben & Jerry’s, and in 2005 became the exclusive distributor of Blue Bunny Ice Cream products in the state of Maine and New Hampshire have made Getchell Brothers a leading distributor of ice cream in Northern New England.
Getchell Brothers continues to grow and modernize operations. Our plants are NSF inspected and certified by the International Packaged Ice Association. Getchell Brothers is committed to maintaining a high quality product and modern operations in order to supply our customers with great service they have come to expect since 1888.