by Enrico Villamaino
As a workday, eight hours is pretty average. When standing in line at the DMV, it’s an eternity. But for milking a cow, processing and packaging the milk, and then having it on the shelf and available for sale, eight hours is actually pretty darn fast.
“When everything goes right, we can have the cows in the milking parlor at 3 a.m. and have the milk on the shelf and ready for sale at 11 a.m.,” said Ellen Puccetti, co-owner of Wright’s Dairy Farm in North Smithfield, RI. Calling it their “Moo-to-You” process, Ellen said it exemplifies Wright’s commitment to providing their customers with quality products with a maximum shelf life. The Moo-to-You process ensures that Wright’s milk has a two week shelf life.
Ellen is the fourth generation in a family that has been in the dairy business since 1914. “My great-grandfather started the farm, and he really gave us a leg up on the competition when he started processing our milk on site in the 1930s,” she said.
Over the years, operations at Wright’s have undergone changes brought on by each successive generation. For years, they sold their milk at the retail level and made home deliveries, but Ellen’s parents discontinued this and shifted their focus toward wholesale sales. Ellen, who studied baking at Johnson & Wales University in nearby Providence, brought her baking expertise to the business and started Wright’s Cake Shop with its multitude of pastry offerings. Ellen’s daughter, Catherine Kennedy, is now the creamery manager. Catherine has made her own mark on the business with the introduction of on-site ice cream sales.
“As for our milk,” Ellen explained, “we offer whole, 2%, skim and flavored – mostly chocolate, strawberry and, of course, coffee milk, which is the official state drink of Rhode Island.” From Nov. 1 through Jan. 1, Wright’s also offers eggnog in collectible glass bottles. Most of the milk from Wright’s is enjoyed locally, and Ellen estimates that most of their milk is sold within a 10-mile radius of the dairy.
The bakery offers cream puffs, cream pies, eclairs, blueberry muffins and cinnamon rolls year round. There is a number of seasonal offerings (over 500, in fact) that are offered at different times throughout the year. Seasonal favorites include fruitcakes and Christmas cookies. Many of the bakery’s selections are “Claire’s Classics,” made from recipes handed down from Ellen’s mother Claire. In 2017, the cake shop opened up a wedding consultation room and cake viewing area to see decorators hard at work.
Catherine, who majored in food science at the UMass Amherst, has brought social media to Wright’s. According to Ellen, “We had already had a lot of success selling our molasses spiced hermit cookies online (to ensure peak freshness, all orders are packed and shipped on Tuesday immediately after baking.) But Catherine got us all over social media, and that brought in a whole new group of customers.” Catherine, who had started making her own ice cream when she was 16 years old, renovated an antique 1963 Airstream trailer into an ice cream shop. Calling it “The Wright Scoop,” the shop is open from May 1 though October. Customers can buy ice cream to enjoy on the property, or quart packages to take home. Much like the Moo-to-You timeline, the process of the milk going from the milking parlor to the ice cream crowning a cone is just four short days.
Looking ahead, Ellen said she is always on the lookout to expand their bakery offerings. “There’s so many recipes out there, and our customers are always on the lookout to try something new … and our ice cream shop has done very well. In the past, we were only keeping it open five days a week, but next season, we’ll definitely be keeping it open all seven.”