UPDATE: Yarnell's Premium Ice Cream Closes, Leaves 200 Jobless

by Lance Turner  on Thursday, Jun. 30, 2011 11:32 am  

Yarnell's Premium Ice Cream of Searcy confirms it has ceased operations, leaving 200 employees out of a job.

Yarnell's Premium Ice Cream of Searcy, an iconic Arkansas company and one of the largest privately held ice cream companies in the U.S., confirmed Thursday that it has ceased operations, affecting 200 employees.

"This has been an extremely tough year for the ice cream industry in general, and particularly to regional, independent manufacturers like ourselves," Christina Yarnell, the company's CEO and great-granddaughter of its founder, said in a news release.

"We have examined many possible avenues to keep the company afloat - actively marketing the company to investors and strategic buyers - the majority of whom are undergoing the same financial distress we are. However, we've been unable to obtain additional financing from our lenders or locate a buyer, and have come to the difficult decision that the appropriate course of action is to shut our doors."

Word of the company's demise began circulating early Thursday morning, with posts about the closing surfacing on the company's Facebook profile and Wikipedia page. Later Thursday morning, Christina Yarnell posted an official notice on Facebook.

"We are truly thankful for our amazing employees and the heart and soul that they have put into the past successes of this company," she wrote. "They are great people. And I can't say enough about our customers and your loyalty to Yarnell's."

The company said a small team will remain at work through Aug. 27 to finalize operations. Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said the state Department of Workforce Services is already reaching out to employees to help them figure out what comes next.

(More: Gov. Mike Beebe, who practiced law in Searcy and represented the city in the state Legislature, comments on the company's closing.)

Yarnell's was founded in 1932 in Searcy. It has branch operations in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, and serviced supermarket, convenience store and foodservice customers in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and parts of Missouri, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

In addition to its Yarnell-branded ice cream products, the company had forged a distribution relationship with Nestle, the largest food company in the world. The company also produced ice cream products for several Fortune 500 food companies.

Yarnell's was also highly visible among Arkansans, with its Razorbacks line of ice cream flavors, including Woo Pig Chewie, and its sponsorship of major Arkansas events, including Riverfest, the annual arts and music festival in Little Rock's River Market district.

Arkansas Business profiled Yarnell's during its 75th anniversary in 2007

Long History

 

 

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