Blue Bunny ice cream plant closing its doors

ST. GEORGE – Iowa-based Wells Enterprises Inc. announced it is closing its St. George Blue Bunny ice cream production facility, located at 1310 E. Commerce Drive in St. George.

In a statement released Tuesday, the company said:

Wells Enterprises has decided to close its ice cream plant in St. George, Utah. This decision will enable the Company to optimize its existing capacity in Le Mars, Iowa to more efficiently serve customers and support Wells’ long-term growth strategy. The decision also allows Wells to more effectively compete in the ice cream category that has been flat to declining for several years, and has been further challenged by unstable commodity costs. Wells is mindful of the impact changes of this nature have on employees and their families and is committed to helping impacted employees through this transition.

St. George Mayor Jon Pike said Blue Bunny built the St. George plant in anticipation that demand for the company’s products in the Western United States would increase. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

“It’s one of those market realities,” Pike said.

The pending closure – Wells’ Dairy has not yet supplied a specific shutdown date – will impact approximately 90-to-100 employees.

“We’re very disappointed and sad for the employees and their families,” Pike said, adding that he hopes they will be able to find new employment within the community.

Scott Hirschi, director of Site Select Plus, which works to recruit new businesses to the area, echoed Pike’s sentiment in a statement Tuesday:

We extend our condolences to the employees who will lose their jobs with the closure.  However, the St. George Plant crew is a highly trained and very skilled labor force.  I am confident all of the approximately 100 workers will find employment opportunities within our community.  With the current low-unemployment rate, high job creation rate and the promise of more Primary Industries jobs coming here soon the local labor market will remain healthy.

The closure of the ice cream plant also removes a valued corporate partner from the area, the mayor said. Wells Dairy has been very supportive of St. George and Washington County as a whole and has given good reports to other businesses looking into the area, Pike said.

“We well miss them terribly as a corporate partner,” he said.

As for the 160,000-square foot Blue Bunny building, Wells Dairy will leave it behind, Pike said. Resources like Site Select Plus, will be called upon to help find new companies that may be able to take the building over.

The Blue Bunny ice cream plant opened in St. George in September 2003 and cost around $55 million to construct.

Ed. note: The original estimated construction cost has been corrected. The article has been updated with a statement from Scott Hirschi.

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34 Comments

  • Doug September 2, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I wonder if we will still be able to get their products? We have grown to love them.

  • My Evil Twin September 2, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Man I hate to see this. Not that I care about ice cream, I just hate to see any of our businesses shutting down, laying off people, and contributing to the recession that is obviously NOT OVER.

  • killjoy September 2, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Actually it’s more like 100 employees. S.O. had been with them for almost 10yrs and we are worried sick. This company was great to be with and now? ?????? 🙁 :,(

  • TheDude September 2, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Well now if Family Dollar mergers with Dollar tree or Dollar General. Thay can close that facilitating and layoff another 100+ employed people. That will be so great for the local labor force. MORE CHEAP LABOR, of course they have to run out of unemployment first, and that takes 99 weeks.

    • Rachel September 3, 2014 at 9:53 am

      Actually, the merger with Dollar Tree would be fine. They are not direct competitors. The merger would increase their market. If they merge with Dollar General, many people would be laid off. Dollar Tree’s distribution centers are running at +95%. They need Family Dollar’s DCs to keep up with their own demand. If any changes happen with a merger with Dollar Tree, it would most likely be the opening of another shift here at the UT DC.

      • TheDude September 4, 2014 at 5:21 am

        You know, “Rachel” I have seen smaller businesses eat those employees for profit. It’s only the profit, and dude it’s about profit. Never let people get in the way of profit, that’s the American way.

        • Rachel September 4, 2014 at 8:33 am

          You don’t have to use quotations around my name. My name is Rachel. I have seen this as well. I’m just letting you know what the Family Dollar employees have heard. They are going through all the proper channels to get the merger done with Dollar Tree. If (IF) it works out like they think then it should be beneficial for the area.

  • Rebecca September 2, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    What awful news

  • Al September 2, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    It’s their own fault… really. They had me hooked on blue bunny strawberry yogurt… and then, they removed most of the strawberry chunks! Why? Why? I quit buying it.

  • Voice of Reason September 2, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Well that’s just terrible news. I knew a lot of really good people who worked there.
    I hope they can all find suitable employment going forward. Hopefully Wells Dairy will give a few of the a chance to stay on, even if it involves moving to Iowa.

    • killjoy September 2, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      Yes, they are giving the option to move to iowa and some $ help with moving costs. But, it is a big decision and who knows if a person could even find a apt/home.

      • The Rest Of The Story September 3, 2014 at 1:31 am

        Uhm, yes, because there’s such a shortage of land and homes in Iowa?

        What color is the sky on your planet?

  • Bender September 2, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    “As for the Blue Bunny building, Wells Dairy will leave it behind”
    .
    Fair enough. Probably wouldn’t fit on a semi-trailer anyway.

  • From Nebraska September 2, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Its always sad to see a business close, especially one from the mid-west . We moved to Mesquite 2 yrs ago & were very happy to see they had Blue Bunny here !

  • The Rest Of The Story September 2, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    Meh. No love lost. Their ice cream is too expensive and not really that good.

  • bobber September 2, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Last time I had blue bunny was years ago and it tasted cheap and nasty. bye bye bunny.

  • Northwest Iowa Guy September 2, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    We were told they built the facility because when the the ice cream was shipped from here, the ice cream would expand or the containers would break going over the mountains to the west coast because of the change in pressure. So they built the facility to save on transportation costs and be local. Word on the street is they will sell out to a major corporation soon and are just positioning themselves for that to happen.

  • Amber 18 September 2, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    My mom worked the gaurd shack there. She has been their employee for 8.5 years! She loved her job, she was working towards retirement, now what? I also have friends who got a second chance at life, and the ability to support their families finally, now their told that they can’t! People’s lives tonight are crumbling and all of you are talking about freaking ice cream! What about a prayer for those employees?

    • The Rest Of The Story September 3, 2014 at 1:33 am

      What about a prayer for your spelling?

      • chupacabra September 3, 2014 at 8:27 am

        Elaborate please, I know there is a “their” instead of a “they’re” but the individual words in Amber 18’s post were all spelled correctly. Maybe we should all pray for your ability to detect spelling errors.

      • TheDude September 4, 2014 at 5:29 am

        You’re a troll!!!! A bucking troll!!!! Thanks editor if you’re not the TROLL.

  • re September 3, 2014 at 6:37 am

    Just polished off a box of pistachio almond blue bunny, very good! Enjoy it while you can!!

  • chupacabra September 3, 2014 at 8:38 am

    So many great and capable people losing their jobs, thankfully these same people will always come out on top. This is but a stepping stone to a higher place for all the hardworking employees of Blue Bunny.

  • Bob September 3, 2014 at 9:04 am

    Sorry to see them go and the impact on so many families. As for the big Ammonia tanks I am not so sorry to see them emptied. Hazmat

    • Voice of Reason September 3, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      Yeah, because those ammonia tanks caused so many problems over the years.

  • EL JEFE September 3, 2014 at 9:10 am

    The irony of this is, that the City of St. George is still planning on building more industrial buildings in the same Fort Pierce area to “entice” other industry to move here. So what will happen to the Blue Bunny building???……the same that happened to the Viracon building. NOTHING!!! Just sit there empty. A better question is……who is profiting from the overbuilding of industrial properties??
    Think people, someone it making a killing in putting up buildings and letting them sit empty. No property taxes, or any kind of tax revenue for the city. Really strange….

  • bobber September 3, 2014 at 10:49 am

    They’ll probably start making the product in Mexico. I look at a pack of fig newtons and mexican’s made it. It’s a sad world…

  • From Minnesota September 3, 2014 at 11:08 am

    We moved here from Minnesota and heard that Blue Bunny was one of the best places to work. My husband just started there and we thought everything was going to be great! It makes me sick to read the comments from the people that are more worried about the loss of the ice cream or the spelling in someones comment. I hope when those people that left the negative comments loose their jobs they will understand how thoughtless their comments are.
    Now that we don’t have money to spend in your local shops and the ones that might choose to move with the company will not be spending money in your business, what do you think will happen with those jobs? I doubt if your boss will pay you to keep working when his/her profits start to drop.

  • The Rest Of The Story September 3, 2014 at 11:18 am

    2 words: free market.
    How many of the people losing their jobs are Republicans or Libertarians–who tout the *benefits* of a free market?

    Am I the only one who finds it amusing that so many people here in this Red State Hell tout the benefits of a free market but then get upset over the pitfalls of the same free market?

    Does religion make them stupid? Or does religion thrive on their stupidity?

  • Douglas Martin September 3, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    One of only two companies that pay a livable wage here in St.George. Family dollar pays alot less. And is nit a livable wage. Cedar City is bringing in good jobs while St.George is losing them. Just another sign in how this community wants to keep employees on low wages 30% lower than the rest of the State.

  • bobber September 3, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Why can’t we abolish the minimum wage so I can pay my employees $3 an hour. I am a proud, rich, white, mormon, male business owner and I simply don’t care about the working class. Let them eat cake.

  • Douglas Martin September 5, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    People like you make me sick. I am replublican and believe in the free market system, but companies that value employees end up being far more succesful than ones run by people like you that could care less. I have worked fora couple of world wide leaders in there industry that were family owned and they admit it is by the hard work of there employees that made it that way. Maybe thats why we dont have anything in this area thats as sucessful. I hope all your employees walk out on your business, but then again your business is probably some little homebased company that probably only needs highschool age kids to help out.

  • Betty September 7, 2014 at 7:46 am

    St. George News, why not do a story about Scott Hirschi and his wrecking crew. They arrange to bring these companies here, convince the city/county to take it in the shorts for a period of time and when those “benefits” run out, these companies fold up and leave, leaving its employees unemployed. All the while Scott is pulling down some serious $$. How much did we as tax payers contribute to the building and bring Blue Bunny here? Let’s get some meat with the pablum that you spoon feed us.

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