It’s Not Just Ice Cream
How appropriate that Blue Bell in Sylacauga began with a COLD call from Pete Moore who was then Operations Manager of Flav-O-Rich in Sylacauga to the corporate office at Blue Bell in Brenham, Texas, in 1996. “You wanna buy an ice cream plant in Sylacauga, Alabama?” This unsolicited call, in the minds of most business men, would be about as likely to succeed as a snowball in…the jungle or….well, you know what I mean. I was not privy to that call, but I would bet the next question was: “SYLA – WHAT? Where in the world is that?”
This call led to visits and phone calls, and negotiating until in March, 1997, after many months of renovation, Blue Bell in Sylacauga began to make ice cream right here! Right away the company showed good faith in the community by retaining and rehiring a majority of the employees that had worked for the previous owners.
Barely ten years later, in 2007, Blue Bell launched a $5million expansion program on the north end of the existing building to add an automated storage and retrieval system to the cold storage warehouse. In 2008 a $2.5 million expansion project focused on increased production areas and installing updated palletizing equipment. In addition a new hardening system was added to the production of the ice cream. Currently, in 2018, we are all very much aware of an expansion in progress, but maybe you are as curious as I am about just what this $7.5 million project is all about. The two story building under construction will be used for ingredient processing, mix processing, and areas for production. Currently Blue Bell has 270 employees locally, and we are anticipating that more space can lead to growth in that number.
One of the best things about Blue Bell is their partnership with the community that makes so many good things happen. Many groups and individual families visit the plant where they can look down into the production area and view the activities there and then visit the Country Store that features delightful Blue Bell memorabilia and other items. They always visit the Ice Cream Parlor which is open during week days with a wide selection of flavors at a reasonable price. This is a great way to try a new flavor and visit with friends and family.
Blue Bell is another piece of pride for the citizens of Sylacauga who encourage visitors to come to Sylacauga’s beautiful B.B. Comer Library and its adult literacy Brown Bag programs in the fall and spring and in April to the Sylacauga Marble Festival where sculptors come to City Park, across from Blue Bell, to share their talents and promote Sylacauga’s beautiful marble. Lunch in town and a stop at Blue Bell for ice cream is pretty standard with these visitors.
Each July for National Ice Cream Month Blue Bell provides free ice cream scoops to visitors, and in October a Community Trunk –or-Treat has been an annual community event since 2006. Blue Bell has made generous contributions of support to the area schools and to other non-profit organizations like SAFE (Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement), Boys Club, March of Dimes, Relay for Life, Ribbons of Hope Foundation, Alabama Childhood Food Solutions, Care House, Animal Rescue Foundation, and B. B. Comer Library.
Mandi Cantrell , Children’s Librarian at B.B. Comer explains the significance of Blue Bell Story Time: “Children enjoy fun read-aloud books carefully chosen to fit the theme of the day and engaging songs and art, and a take-home craft to extend the story time experience to the home or classroom. This program takes place weekly in the library as well as at two preschools in the community.”
All of this and ice cream, too! Blue Bell is not just ice cream, but it is a source of pride and delight to the people of Sylacauga. Blue Bell, sold in 22 states (according to Blue Bell.com) is made in Brenham, Texas, and right here in Sylacauga, Alabama. When you have such a quality company and such a delicious product made in your hometown, why would you eat any other brand? As one of my favorite Blue Bell commercials says, “There is no place like home. It has a certain magic all its own, and memories are made there every day, collecting each moment one by one, while over the years each day becomes a lifetime of good times shared along the way. Have yourself a Blue Bell country day.”
Special thanks to Walt Jones, Mindy Grier, Mandi Cantrell, Nelda Vogel, Will Brooks and Mary Brooks, Emily Turner, and last but not least Jenny Van Dorf of Blue Bell, Brenham, Texas.