David Lindner, former president of Lindner's Ice Cream stores in Central Indiana, is still scooping up life lessons.
Do you remember your favorite Lindner’s ice cream flavor? Was it the perfect peach, or maybe butter pecan or rocky road? Or possibly a catchy name like Raspberry Salad or Purple Fink calls back childhood memories of warm summer nights. The man behind the fondly remembered ice cream is David Lindner, an Indianapolis business visionary and, a man who continues to live an incomparably full life.
Lindner spent his childhood in the Irvington area of Indianapolis. His father and uncle started an ice cream plant and store, Lindner’s Brothers Ice Cream stores, Inc. in 1929, known for offering the finest quality ice cream for a reasonable price. He attended grade school at George Washington Julian, School #57, where he encountered a love of learning and met his future wife, Elizabeth. After graduating from Arsenal Technical high school in 1941, he attended Purdue for one year.
In 1942, his college career was cut short when he volunteered to serve in World War II. With a background in flying and an interest in taking it further, he became an aviator. He flew a CG-4A overseas as a glider pilot and those war experiences shaped his life.
LIndner with writer Beth Taylor at his Morse Reservoir home.
With sharp detail, he recalls packing displaced Parisians into a plane to transport them out of the Buchenwald concentration camp. To squeeze more people onto the cramped plane, he asked everyone to leave behind all possessions. He watched a man toss his pair of shoes to the ground. “After seeing that, I decided never to have a bad day in my life.”
When the war ended, Lindner returned home to the family ice cream business. He spent time re-acclimating to post-war life by diving in and learning every manual job at the company, including packing ice cream cans and scrubbing floors. With limited automation, work nights followed long workdays — especially in the summer.
“We had to go back to the plant every night to fill the stoker and set the ice cream machine,” he said, recalling the days before the factory had an oil-fired boiler.
Lindner quickly assumed a leadership role as the director of the company, working with his mother, Hannah Lindner, who served as president of the growing business following his father’s death in 1940.
After contributing to years of measured growth, Lindner became president in 1961. By 1986, there were 40 locations, and Lindner’s ice cream regularly earned top billing at national ice cream conventions.
Lindner knew that a key component of business success is understanding what pleases the consumer. “On the East coast, vanilla bean was popular, but here that didn’t work. Our customers liked a good, smooth vanilla ice cream at that time,” he said.
Always one to think from a broader viewpoint, Lindner brought convenience stores and drive-thru windows to his stores in Central Indiana. Appealing advertising with coupons attracted new customers.
A newspaper ad from 1982 showing Lindner advertising his "award-winning" ice cream.
For all of his successes, he admits to having failed many times, but garnered valuable lessons from each failure. “Failure makes you get smart and refine your approach,” he said.
During his 40 years with the company, he relied on this knowledge as he found success in other business ventures, such as real estate. After selling the ice cream business, rather than retiring, he began a new phase of his career as an international consultant for several companies, including Chiquita.
Business success lead to far-reaching philanthropic accomplishments. Lindner served as a board member for numerous organizations including Community Hospital, United Way, Franklin College, and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis to name a few.
In addition to helming a thriving, beloved Indiana business, Lindner excelled at fatherhood. He guided his two daughters and later his five grandchildren, to survive any issue by facing it with grace and gratitude,” said his daughter, Karen Lindner Moriarty, executive director and owner of Lindner Learning Center. Moriarty continues to enjoy the benefits of his business acumen. He is the senior executive advisor at the private, family-owned tutoring center.
Working with his daughter at the tutoring center has special meaning to Lindner who discovered that he has dyslexia later in life. Although a poor student, he credits his love of learning for his success. “The philosophy of learning has allowed me to tackle enormous obstacles in my life and reap rich rewards.” Each year of his adult life, no matter how busy, he has taken a formal course or a class. Most recently, he completed his Stephen Ministry training, so that he can serve as a lay caregiver to people in need.
“Our large, entrepreneurial family greatly benefits from this active coaching in areas of business and finance,” said Moriarty. To help pass on business lessons he’s learned, he and Elizabeth have created and funded investment seminars for their grandchildren. They also established an annual family vacation to keep the members connected.
Lindner greets each day with a positive mindset and decides how to divide a 24-hour day with intention. He begins each day with calisthenics. “You’ve got to take care of your body; it’s the only one you’ve got.”
As Lindner approaches his 90th year, he feels blessed by the richness of a life well lived. He gladly shares his secret to an active, long life: expect change and embrace it.