The only remaining dairy in Davidson County, Purity Dairy was established in 1926 as Ezell’s Dairy by Miles Ezell Sr. with eighty rented cows, a rented farm, and rented equipment. With quality products, hard work, and tenacity, the Ezells transformed their family dairy into a modern dairy company. In 1926 approximately two hundred dairies were in Davidson County, each with its own plant, milk route, and clientele. In the 1940s, the public health requirement for pasteurization reduced the number of Nashville area dairies to seventeen; among the survivors was Ezell’s Purity Dairy. It built a new milk plant in 1945 and then formally incorporated as Purity Dairies in 1946.
The Great Depression, the competitiveness of the dairy business, and the changing agricultural landscape along its Murfreesboro Pike location forced Purity Dairy to develop new business methods. Ezell encouraged quality control and high standards among all regional dairies. In 1946, for instance, Purity established its own lab. It introduced refrigerated bulk tank collection trucks and a vacuum pasteurizer for improved milk taste in 1954 and operated its first refrigerated delivery truck in 1956.
In the 1950s and 1960s the Ezells bought out their strongest competitors, including Richmond Pure Milk Company, Swiss Dairy Farm, and Murfreesboro Pure Milk Company, thereby strengthening Purity’s position in the dairy industry. After hiring Carden & Cherry as its ad agency in 1960, the company began to use creative and multifaceted advertising. During the 1960s and 1970s, Purity produced memorable advertising characters such as the punching cow and kangaroo, “Sgt. Glory,” and Ernest P. Worrell’s “Know what I mean Vern?” to interest customers in the quality of Purity products. The dairy regularly sold a wide variety of products including cottage cheese, sweet acidophilus milk (only the second dairy in the nation to do so), frozen yogurt; its popular ice cream division started in 1986.
These strong business and advertising philosophies produced and still maintain Purity’s number one status in the milk business, while continuing its heritage as a traditional family dairy. In 1998 Dean Foods acquired Purity but allows management and decision-making to stay at the Nashville headquarters. Purity’s current president is Mark Ezell, grandson of the founder.