A handspun "s'mores" shake from The Milk Shake Factory. Photo courtesy of The Milk Shake Factory.

Local dessert shop The Milk Shake Factory is about to become a national business, thanks to investment from billionaire Thomas Tull and his wife, Tull Investment Group CEO Alba Tull.

Building on their two successful locations in Pittsburgh, the company will expand to 25 locations nationwide over the next three years — including more outlets in the Pittsburgh area.

Originally a soda fountain and chocolate shop that opened in Lawrenceville in 1914, the family business later moved to the South Side in 1978. They eventually developed their focus on milkshakes and rebranded into The Milkshake Factory thanks to a project that co-owner Dana Edwards started during college.

Because the company “was born in Pittsburgh and we have a lot of loyal fans,” says CEO Chris Edwards, expanding here is definitely part of the plan. New ‘burgh locations haven’t been chosen yet, though — stay tuned here for updates on that.

But the partnership, announced yesterday, will bring more than just growth to The Milk Shake Factory.

Using fresh milk from Jersey cows at the Tulls’ Rivendale Farms in Washington County, the company will create a new type of soft ice cream (not the same as soft-serve ice cream, says Edwards) for blending into their handspun milkshakes beginning later this spring.

The company will focus on traditional farming here in the Pittsburgh region, as well as abroad, he says. They already sustainably source chocolate from Africa and are now looking to become “heavily involved in sustainability in Africa,” he says, and helping fight poverty there.

In addition, this new funding allows The Milk Shake Factory to develop new technology for their growing business.

“We recognize that the face of retail is changing,” Edwards says, and companies must keep pace with those changes. The Tulls’ investment will “allow us to have the capital to expand,” he says, and “to create the technology necessary to keep up.”

Kidsburgh Editor Melissa Rayworth specializes in stories about culture, gender, design and parenting. She has written for a variety of outlets in the U.S. and Asia, and is a frequent contributor to The Associated Press. Find a selection of her work at melissarayworth.pressfolios.com.