A Humble Beginning: Early 20th Century
DSL’s storied history starts with Robert Morris, an engineer attracted to the pioneer spirit and vibrant growth of Western Canada. Robert noticed the dairies of Alberta were in need of an equipment supplier, which led him to incorporate Alberta Dairy Supplies Limited in 1916.
Early shareholders in the company included prominent Edmonton businessmen Dr. Norman Terwillegar and Senator James McKinnon, after whom Terwillegar Park and McKinnon Ravine are named. With the funds to begin supplying dairy products, Alberta Dairy Supplies was in business, operating from a modest lean-to wooden shack across the street from the historic Hotel Macdonald.
Alberta Dairy Supplies Limited offered products like milk stools, pails, milk cans, hand separators, wooden churns, parchment paper for wrapping butter, brushes and soap. The varied product lineup earned the company its motto, “Everything but the Cow.”
The Great Depression and WWII
Despite difficult economic times, Alberta Dairy Supplies expanded into Saskatchewan and Manitoba during the depression of the late 1920s and 1930s. After expanding into British Columbia in the 1930s, the company name changed to Dairy Supplies Limited to reflect its now expanded territory.
After the post-war boom, General Manager George Ross sought help running the business. George approached Pete Rice, an Edmonton accountant with an eye on the numbers, in the mid-1950s.
In 1957, George and Pete were approached by John Kappus to become a dealer for Taylor Soft Serve Freezers, manufactured in Rockton, Illinois.
1960s: Everything Changes
The 1960s brought major changes to the dairy industry in Western Canada. Independent dairies were disappearing and dairy producers began to consolidate as a result of the development of the transportation industry, improved technology, and fierce competition.
Dairy Supplies Limited had found itself at a difficult crossroads; stay the course in the shrinking dairy industry, or chart a new path serving restaurants and convenience stores. At the time, Jim Ross, George’s son, was poised to take the company reigns. Along with Pete Rice, Jim decided to follow the restaurant and convenience store route and began developing the company’s foodservice equipment department.
1970s: DSL Partners with Henny Penny
Dairy Supplies Limited became a distributor for Henny Penny cooking equipment in 1979, almost immediately becoming Henny Penny’s number one distributor. At this time, Pete Rice was the company President and along with Jim Ross, continued to guide the company down the path of becoming a leading food equipment distributor. 1976 saw the addition of Pete’s son, Steve Rice to DSL, and the company hired its first technician in 1977.
1980s, 90s and Now: Where DSL is today
It was in the 1980s that DSL made a conscious decision to get into the service business and today service makes up over half of the company’s business.
The company name changed to DSL Ltd. and centralized inventory, management and finance at its Edmonton office. The branches became sales and service offices, and the company continued to grow.
Most recently, DSL has added Franke Automatic Coffee machines to their product offering. The European style coffee machines have seen great success with adoption in espresso bars, restaurants and corporate lunchrooms.
The Next 100 Years
DSL’s tagline moving forward, “Now Serving You,” is a reflection of our commitment to our customers. While the DSL product catalogue has evolved over the last 100 years, our business is and has always been about serving our customers. Not just in the equipment we sell, but with the service expertise to ensure the equipment you rely on is always up, and always on. After all, we’re only as successful as our customers.