Suffolk scoops new investmentPublished 11:34pm Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Beginning next month, Virginians will have the opportunity to purchase ice cream that was once on special order to the White House — and some of it will have been trucked out from Suffolk’s Northgate Commerce Park.
Texas-based Blue Bell Ice Cream, which both Bush presidents used to have shipped to the presidential residence, has established a “transfer station” in a unit at 1982 Northgate Commerce Parkway.
Parked out back is a fleet of six trucks, bearing the nation’s number-three selling branded ice cream’s distinctive logo and colors.
Sales manager Heath Stallings, who has moved to Suffolk from Columbia, S.C., said Blue Bell products, including half-gallons, pints and “a few novelties,” would be distributed from the new facility north to Williamsburg, south to Nags Head and west as far as Interstate 95.
“March the fourth is the first day of delivery,” he said. “We have been in the office since Jan. 1.”
A larger new facility in Richmond will include warehouse and office space, cold storage facilities and loading docks, according to a news release.
The two locations together will serve a 70-mile radius from Richmond with a population of almost 2 ½ million, the release states.
Blue Bell will initially be available at Walmart, Kroger, Walgreen’s, Farm Fresh and other chain and independent grocery stores, drugstores and convenience stores, as well as at Carrabba’s and Outback Steakhouse restaurants.
The company claims the ice cream, currently only sold in parts of 20 states, punches well outside its weight; President George W. Bush would serve it to visiting dignitaries at his Crawford ranch, and it was also on the menu at the family’s Kennebunkport estate. Astronauts have carried it into space three times.
The 250-product lineup includes Blue Bell ice cream, light ice cream, sherbet, frozen yogurt, no-sugar added ice cream and frozen snacks.
Blue Bell employees — and no one else — will deliver directly to retailers in Blue Bell trucks. “This is one of the ways that Blue Bell ensures that consumers get the freshest possible ice cream,” the release states.
Stallings said the company decided to move into Virginia after “tons” of emails, phone calls, “hand-written pleas” and appeals in blogs.
“People were excited and asked for Blue Bell to come,” he said, adding that the military presence in Hampton Roads, which it sees as a promising sub-market, factored into the company’s decision.
He said the company hopes to expand the Suffolk transfer station beyond eight to 10 initial employees.
“The plan is there — it’s up to all of us to do our part to help make that happen,” he said. “The plan is for this to grow into a branch, like in Richmond.”
Blue Bell Creameries was founded as The Brenham Creamery Company in 1907 in Brenham, Texas, 70 miles northwest of Houston.
Branch manager Mark Fancher said the milk from 60,000 cows is needed for a day’s supply of Blue Bell ice cream.