Nicholas Steffen was born March 27, 1862, in Madison, Indiana. Steffen was the third child of a German cobbler. He became an apprentice to a baker, Fred Glass, at a young age. It was from Glass that Steffen learned about baking and ice cream making. When he was 17 Steffen entered into a business partnership in Indianapolis operating a bakery and restaurant. Looking for new opportunities he moved to Kansas when he was 20. Steffen settled in Wichita and opened the Indiana Bakery. Steffen soon shut his doors and moved to Wellington, Kansas, thinking that there would be more opportunities there, but eventually moved back to Wichita. In Wichita Steffen opened another bakery, Steffen’s Bakery and Restaurant. In addition to bakery items, Steffen sold ice cream on Saturdays and holidays. The popularity of his bakery and restaurant grew and by 1885 it was renamed Bon Ton Bakery and Restaurant. Since there were no take-out options for ice cream, it had to be eaten in the restaurant. Steffen began to work with shipping companies and became the first commercial shipper of ice cream in the U.S. Steffen married Cora Harrison in 1890 and had four children. In 1899 Steffen sold his restaurant and started a new business venture. He partnered with W.H. Bretch and formed the Steffen-Bretch Ice and Ice Cream Company. Steffen became the president and the company soon spread and developed several branches. In 1905 Steffen’s health was failing and he retired from the company although he retained input until his death. Steffen died June 8, 1910, in Wichita, in a railroad accident.
Entry: Steffen, Nicholas
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2012
Date Modified: April 2016
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.