WILLIS (CBSDFW.COM) – Blue Bell Ice Cream returned to parts of Texas on Monday. While people in the DFW area have to wait at least a couple more weeks to start serving up scoops of the tasty treat, residents around Houston got out of bed early to welcome back a Lone Star State favorite.
It has been more than four months since Blue Bell Ice Cream was pulled from store shelves, as operations at three production plants were shut down. After an outbreak of Listeria — which killed three people and sickened 10 more — the company’s plant in Alabama was cleaned out and upgraded.
The ice cream that arrived back in stores on Monday morning came from that Alabama plant. The company’s headquarters in Brenham and their Oklahoma plant are still not making ice cream. Officials explained that those plants are still in the process of getting their much-needed upgrades.
With just one working plant, Blue Bell Ice Cream is rolling back out in five phases. Houston is a part of Phase One, along with Austin. North Texas is part of Phase Two, which is expected to begin in the next two to four weeks.
Four flavors are being made available at first: Homemade Vanilla, Dutch Chocolate, Cookies ‘n Cream and The Great Divide.
Loyal customers of the Texas brand are ready to give Blue Bell another chance. “I think they’re real careful, and they’re careful before,” said shopper Sharon Hibbard. “It’s one of those things that happens. You just correct it and just go on.”
“I went and got some Baskin-Robbins and I just did not like it. And I said, Blue Bell never comes back, I’ll never eat ice cream again,” added loyal fan Alice Ross. “I’m not joking.”
Ice cream fans are not the only ones who are excited about Blue Bell’s return. Officials with Kroger explained that Blue Bell is the top-selling brand of ice cream in their stores. They have been preparing to re-stock their shelves with the creamy treats for several weeks. They are limiting Blue Bell items to two per customer at the Kroger store in Willis, just north of Houston.
Meanwhile, at the H-E-B store in Brenham, it took only 90 minutes for the shelves to start emptying at limits of four items per customer. A manager stated that 600 units were sold in the first hour, and before 10:30 a.m. the store had sold out — twice. A third shipment is already on the way. Some fans shed tears of joy, while others said that buying Blue Bell Ice Cream was an act of supporting the community, not just eating sweet treats.