TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — J&S Dairy began as a small wholesale dairy distributor in 1973. Company owners Jim and Sonya Johns leased space in a local warehouse to keep a variety of products, including cheese, eggs, milk, and ice cream, before the products were shipped to supermarkets throughout Michigan.

When the company expanded to include premium ice creams such as Ben and Jerry’s, Edy’s Homemade, and Ashby Sterling, the Johns decided to build their own freezer warehouse.

To do so, they called on Dan Walters, owner of Grand Traverse Diesel Service Inc. He is a licensed mechanical contractor who had been servicing J&S’s Thermo King refrigerated trucks for more than 20 years.

Walters then contacted John Semeyn, owner of Midwest Refrigeration, who in turn called on Bohn sales representative Ken Applegate. A series of meetings among all parties resulted in a greatly expanded operation.

The new building was built in four sections, including an office space, a cooler (for milk and other nonfrozen products), a 40- by 40-foot warehouse for storage, and a 40- by 60-foot freezer.

Four 22-hp Bohn units were installed in the freezer. “When it came to choosing equipment,” said Walters, “we did not want to cut corners. We looked at less expensive equipment, but we realized we needed quality.”

The equipment was engineered to keep the freezer at a constant temperature of –25 degrees F. “With ice cream, it is critical to maintain a temperature of –25 degrees to prevent it from melting,” said Applegate. “The Bohn and Beacon II systems are doing that.”

Extra Hard Ice Cream

The systems must work extra hard, noted all those involved in the project, in order to maintain the temperature. This is because freezer doors are constantly being opened to load the ice cream onto any one of the company’s 12 trucks.

Although the Johns expected to turn the warehouse into freezer space in three years, their business grew faster than they had expected. Nine months after the warehouse was built, it was converted into freezer space. Two additional 22-hp units were installed. The temperature was set at –25 degrees.

Applegate recommended the Beacon II because of what he said were cost and energy savings as well as convenience. The system’s Smart Controller’s LED display and control pad were installed in the owner’s office. The system can be monitored and adjusted off-site.

The Smart Defrost system defrosts on an as-needed basis (as opposed to a set defrost schedule found in conventional control systems). “The Beacon II allows the owners to monitor the box temperature, check the number and time of defrosts, and adjust the superheat readings all by touching a button,” said Semeyn. The controller also alerts the owners to malfunctions.

“When you’re in the ice cream business,” said Sonya Johns, “you know how important it is to be able to rely on your refrigeration system. Now we never have to worry about our ice cream getting soft. Ice cream should be delivered to the grocery store as hard as rock.”

Bohn is a Heatcraft Refrigeration brand. For more information, visit

Publication date: 08/04/2003