MARKDALE, Ont. -- Chapman's Ice Cream is hiring as it ramps up production and works toward opening its new plant in the spring.
Penny Chapman, who owns the business with her husband David, said she expects to have just over 350 employees once the new 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 destroyed its production facility in this central Ontario community last Sept. 4.
Two more lines will be added to the current factory in March, which will be used to make products containing after the new plant 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 the equipment, but what an opportunity. Instead of isolated rooms within a plant it is absolutely separate."
Chapman said she expects the company to eventually have about 350 employees, maybe a few more, after the new plant is up and running.
Chapman said the company normally has about 300 employees during the winter.
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.
"We are behind, which is unfortunate, and the weather isn't helping for pouring foundations and things," Chapman said.
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 been gradually bringing workers back to Markdale.
Chapman said the company is doing very little work outside Markdale now.