SEARCY, ARK. (June 30, 2011) - Yarnell's Premium Ice Cream ceased operations today after the Board of Directors voted yesterday to end production indefinitely.
The privately owned company, headquartered in Searcy, Ark., told its approximately 200 employees today that they would be paid through every day worked but not beyond that.
"I'm the second shift supervisor in the loading department. Well, was - keyword."
It is no joke but Danny Barnes can't help but share a laugh with his colleagues, leaving the Yarnell's factory in Searcy for the last time after 7 years of employment.
"Last night, we was in the middle of our shift and they came in and told us to shut down as soon as we were finished with the truck we were working on to shut down and send everyone else home and they would explain more in detail later. Come to find out this morning, everyone was out of a job."
Yarnell's was forced to close their doors this morning, sending home more than 200 employees. Many of them leaving straight from the factory to the unemployment office.
"Whenever you walked in the unemployment office door, they said are you from Yarnell's? That is the first thing they said."
Michael Cox has worked 3rd shift at Yarnell's since 2003 and received the news in the wee hours of the morning.
"We had a meeting at 2:45 when they shut the lines down and they gave us our papers and I sent out a mass text to a lot of people saying hey, we don't have a job, you need to come get your papers," says Cox.
A devasting blow to a community already struggling to find jobs. Barnes says now they can do nothing else but pick up the pieces.
"Start hitting the streets and see what's out there and try to do the best we can for our families, go from there.The good Lord has something planned for all of us. We just got to figure out what it is."
"This has been an extremely tough year for the ice cream industry in general, and particularly to regional, independent manufacturers like ourselves," said Christina Yarnell, chief executive officer of Yarnell's. "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."
Approximately 75 percent of Yarnell's employees work at the Searcy headquarters, with the rest of the employee base located throughout the state and in Tennessee and Mississippi. A small team will remain working for the company to finalize operations, with completion expected by Aug. 27.
"Yarnell's has been an Arkansas staple for more than 75 years, and it's been a family business that started with my great-grandfather, Ray, and has involved four generations of the Yarnell family. Ceasing operations is heartbreaking because we have prided ourselves on keeping our roots in Arkansas, particularly Searcy.
"We are truly thankful for our amazing employees and the heart and soul that they have put into the past successes of this company. They are great people. And I can't say enough about our customers and their loyalty to Yarnell's. It's been a pleasure creating the highest quality ice cream that they can be proud to serve to their families and friends. I, personally, will miss hearing their wonderful feedback and encouraging comments."
Sales of ice cream and related products have steadily declined over the past five years across the United States. In order to compensate for declining sales, the larger manufacturers continue to jockey for retailers' shelf space through price competition. This, along with steadily increasing commodity prices (cream, sugar, fuel, etc.), has resulted in significant financial damage to regional ice cream manufacturers such as Yarnell's.