Milk Shake Factory brings storefront to Pitt’s backyard


Kaycee Orwig | Staff Photographer

The Downtown Milkshake Factory location.

By Stefan Bordeianu, For The Pitt News

The cold Pittsburgh winter is about to get colder with the arrival of a new Milk Shake Factory in Oakland — but students look likely to meet it with a warm embrace.

The new Milk Shake Factory is scheduled to open in February of this year, according to Albert Fonticiella, the vice president of corporate services for the Milk Shake Factory. The restaurant will be located on Forbes Avenue in the Iroquois building, which also houses Piada and Starbucks.

“[Oakland] is becoming an innovation hub,” Fonticiella said. “We want a part of the transformation of Pittsburgh.”

This Milk Shake Factory will be the fourth location of the Pittsburgh business, which was founded in 1914. In addition to milkshakes, the restaurant offers gourmet chocolates and floats. The business currently has three locations — on East Carson Street in the South Side, at PNC Plaza Downtown and on Penn Avenue in East Liberty.

[Read: Milk Shake Factory brings legen-dairy desserts to Oakland]

The new Milk Shake Factory, like the East Liberty location, will feature digital ordering kiosks. But this Milk Shake Factory’s college audience will bring new demands — like late nights.

Fonticiella didn’t confirm that the restaurant would stay open late immediately after opening, but he did express hope that the business would at one point be able to stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Andrew Dow, a junior majoring in sociology and communication, enthusiastically supported the idea that the Milk Shake Factory should stay open late on the weekends.

“If they’re open late, I think they could actually do really well for themselves,” Dow said. “Could you imagine getting a pizza and a milkshake after a South O evening?”

Dow also conveyed his excitement that there will be a greater variety of milkshakes to choose from. The Milk Shake Factory offers 55 different flavors of milkshake, including everything from the standard vanilla to chocolate raspberry truffle. The price range for a milkshake is $5-7.

“The O has some [milkshakes], but they’re really big,” Dow said. “I can’t have a whole tank of Breyers with just some milk in it and I think it’s always nice to have another option.”

His friend Dominic Hendrickson, a junior majoring in biology and psychology, shares Dow’s enthusiasm.

“I have a huge sweet tooth, so this is going to fix so many cravings of mine,” Hendrickson said.

Other restaurants in Oakland are also welcoming the Milk Shake Factory with open arms. Samantha Barnes, the marketing manager for Stack’d, a burger restaurant located a block away from the new location, is confident that the new shake shop won’t cause the restaurant’s sales to diminish. In fact, she hopes that the new establishment will help Stack’d’s business.

“They can come to us and then go get a shake, and we’re all happy,” Barnes said.

The Milk Shake Factory takes pride in its history as a family business and that won’t change even as the chain expands, Fonticiella said. It is not a franchised restaurant chain and does not plan on franchising even though it plans to expand throughout Pittsburgh and beyond City limits.

According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, the Milk Shake Factory plans on opening six stores in the the Greater Pittsburgh area in 2019.

The push for expansion can be partially attributed to Thomas Tull and the Tull Investment Group, Fonticiella said, which has invested heavily in the Milk Shake Factory.

The Tull Investment Group owns Rivendale Farms in New Jersey, which sources milk to the restaurants. Fonticiella believes that the main difference between the Milk Shake Factory and more traditional ice cream shops is its locally and ethically sourced ingredients.

“A big focus is the ingredients,” Fonticiella said. “We work with our vendors to [get] chocolate that is sustainably sourced.”

The farm-fresh dairy and cocoa that comes from paid farmers in West Africa are a point of pride for the restaurant. And the gourmet chocolates sold in the shops are handmade in a family-owned facility in Trafford, Fonticiella said.

The Milk Shake Factory has been a long time favorite for many students at the University of Pittsburgh, and the new location is exciting for someone like Dow.

“In 2019, who doesn’t want a milkshake?” he said.