From the Owen Sound Sun Times, through the magic of e-mail, posted on the Internet by Rob Gowan, softening the worldwide economic squeeze, and following a fire that completely destroyed the workplace of some 300 employees, comes some good news.

For all those living in and around Markdale, which is my son’s family’s new stomping grounds, and to all those whose lips have a hankering for ice cream, no matter where, why or what widespread area you live in, it is exceptionally good news. Here it is, in greater part, as it was posted.

“Chapman’s Ice Cream is hiring as it ramps up production and works to reopen its new plant in the spring.

“Penny Chapman, who owns the business with her husband, David, said she hopes to have over 350 employees once the plant is running, up from the 300 who now work for the company. They want to train workers for more production at its current plant, as well as for a new plant and the busy summer season to follow. ‘It’s pretty exciting,’ Chapman said of hiring new people. ‘Some of them will come on at the mini plant in March, others will be training for Project Phoenix, the big plant, which I would think is May.’

“The company now operates three lines in a plant purchased after fire completely destroyed its 85,000-square-foot production facility on Sept. 4. Two more lines will be added to the current factory in March, which will be used to make nut-free products after the new 165,000-square-foot plant being built in Markdale is complete.

“‘For the first time in our history we have segregated plants to do the nut-free claim. That’s an opportunity we can’t turn down,’ said Chapman. ‘It meant doubling up on some of our equipment, but what an opportunity. Instead of isolated rooms within a plant it is absolutely separate.’

“The new plant will allow the company to have everything they had before with room to grow. This year, despite working in a smaller plant, they have been able to find work for employees such as painting and cleaning at the company’s new headquarters in a building purchased across the street from the former Markdale plant.

“‘We kept everybody going whether they are doing a full job or not,’ said Chapman. ‘There is so much stuff to do. Maintenance is working flat out getting stuff ready for the mini plant so it is a real hive of activity here.’ Due to inclement weather, at the start, the new plant is about six weeks behind schedule. It was originally slated to open in April, but that has been pushed back to May.

“After fire destroyed the 150-year-old creamery that had been Chapman’s headquarters for 36 years, the Chapmans continued to pay employees through an insurance policy they paid into for almost 40 years. They kept drivers, office workers and telemarketers working in the days after the fire and, using their own staff, outsourced work to small operators in southern Ontario, including Belleville and Stoney Creek. Within six weeks they had their current plant operating and they have gradually been bringing workers back to Markdale. Chapman said the company is doing very little work outside of Markdale now.

“‘We did what we had to do with (outside operators) and stockpiled a little to buy us some time,’ said Chapman. ‘As we convert stuff to our mini plant we don’t have to use them anymore. Logistically that was difficult and it wasn’t really ours. You have to make it in Markdale to really be 100% Chapman’s.’ ”

So there you have it, folks, if you’ll pardon the pun, in a nut-free shell. What better news could you get? If our auto industry had recently had some Chief Executive Officers with nurturing attitudes and capabilities similar to those of David and Penny Chapman, there would be a lot less unemployment clear across our country.

Take care, ‘cause we care.


Barrie Hopkins