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Ice cream distribution center still open
Some employees on furlough as company cleans plants
blue bell logo
Blue Bell Creameries was established in 1907.

Blue Bell Creameries’ transfer station in Bryan County will remain open despite significant cost-cutting measures by the company, a Blue Bell spokesman said Tuesday.

Approximately 1,400 employees, including some in Bryan County, are being furloughed following the multi-state outbreak of listeria illnesses linked to Blue Bell ice cream. The company shut down production and pulled all its products from the market last month.

In addition, 14 distribution centers will not reopen, and up to 750 full-time and 700 part-time employees will be laid off, according to a Blue Bell news release. That represents 37 percent of the company’s 3,900-person workforce.

However, the transfer station in Bryan County is still in operation with minimal staff and will return more employees to work once Blue Bell resumes ice cream production and distribution, said company spokesman Joe Robertson.

“That facility will remain open,” he said.

Two supervisors are currently conducting day-to-day operations at the transfer station in Bryan County’s Interstate Centre industrial park, Robertson said. The facility had approximately 10 workers at the time of Blue Bell’s shutdown.

“There still are employees, but they’re on paid furlough until we start producing ice cream again,” Robertson said.

No set timeframe has been established for Blue Bell products to return to the market, according to Robertson. The process of cleaning and improving Blue Bell’s four production plants “is going to take longer than the company initially anticipated,” the release states.
That includes “major repairs and equipment replacements” expected to be made at Blue Bell’s main plant in Brenham, Texas. When production resumes, it will be limited and phased in over time, according to the company.

“Hopefully, we’ll be back sooner than later,” Robertson said, adding an estimate of “at least six weeks now” for Blue Bell to resume operations.

Smaller than a distribution center, the Bryan County transfer station basically is a refrigerated warehouse and truck dock. It services stores in Savannah, Statesboro, Swainsboro, Sylvania and Vidalia, as well as Beaufort and Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

Blue Bell is closing distribution centers in Phoenix (two branches) and Tucson, Arizona; Denver; Indianapolis; Kansas City and Wichita, Kansas; Louisville, Kentucky; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Las Vegas;  Raleigh and  Charlotte, North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia.

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