Blue Bell returned to select Austin stores Tuesday, September 1. Blue Bell had disappeared from the shelves in April, due to it’s relation to listeria outbreaks in several states. Production in the Sylacauga, Alabama, facility resumed in July, after being tested for listeria. When the results came back negative, a re-distribution plan was formulated:
The ice cream would return to stores in 5 phases, the first of which, being stores in Austin, Houston, and Brenham. KVUE reported the following phases:
Phase Two: North central Texas and southern Oklahoma
Phase Three: Southwest Texas and central Oklahoma
Phase Four: The majority of Texas and southern Louisiana
Phase Five: Complete Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas and begin distribution in Arkansas, Florida, northern Louisiana and Mississippi. This phase also will include only parts of Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.”
There are four flavors currently being sold: Dutch Chocolate, The Great Divide, Cookies n’ Creme, and Homemade Vanilla. The other famous flavors will return soon. H-E-B is limiting sales, to four gallons per costumer, to ensure there’s enough to go around until all Blue Bell facilities are fully up and running again. According to The Statesman there is no word as to how long this limitation will be in place.
Brenham native Darden Smith reflected on his childhood in Blue Bell’s home town, saying, “You just ate Blue Bell Ice Cream; you didn’t eat another ice cream.”
In 1907, the Brenham Creamery Company began purchasing excess cream from local dairy farmers and sold butter to the people of Brenham. In 1911, they began producing ice cream. In 1919, during financial troubles, the Kruse family bought Brenham Creamery and focused solely on ice cream, which saved the company. It was renamed Blue Bell Creameries in 1930.
When asked about what his reaction was to the recall, Smith said it was a surprise. “It was a big deal, because they’re the biggest employer in town… I remember hearing it and I was just shocked, and I knew kind of what that meant for the community to have that happen. It would send an economic ripple through the community.”
A month after Blue Bell was recalled, the company laid off many employees across the country. Almost 4 in 10 in the Blue Bell workforce of 3,900 lost their jobs, another 1,400 employees will be furloughed, according to USA Today. In Brenham, not only did many locals lose their jobs, but the number of tourists in the town declined. With the Blue Bell factory closed, people didn’t travel to Brenham to tour the famous factory, meaning local businesses suffered.
With the factory back open and people going back to work, there’s rising hope in the small town.
At Ann Richards, Da’Ryah Taylor (7) didn’t know Blue Bell had made it’s return until seeing it on the shelves. “I was shocked but excited!” Lily Koppen (6) was concerned about the ice cream’s quality. “I’m happy that they have it out because it’s very tasty, and that they checked it before putting it back out,” Lily Koppen (6).
Other students summed their emotions up in a few simple words.
“I feel blessed,” said Alexis Segura (12).