Blue Bell, the iconic Texas ice cream brand, will return to stores in most of Virginia in late March.
The company announced Thursday morning that its ice cream will be available in supermarkets and other stores beginning March 25 in the Richmond region, Hampton Roads, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, Williamsburg and other parts of Virginia.
Blue Bell Creameries currently is building two 14,000-square-foot distribution centers - one in the Northlake Business Park off the Lewistown Road exit of Interstate 95 in Hanover County and one in Suffolk.
Both centers will have cold storage space with loading docks, fleet parking and administrative offices. The company announced earlier this year that it was building the two warehouses.
The centers will serve supermarkets and other stores within an approximately 70-mile radius.
Jimmy Lawhorn, vice president of sales and marketing for Blue Bell, said the company's goal has been to return to Virginia.
“Requests for our products have continued and we can’t thank our customers enough for their patience during this time,” Lawhorn said.
Blue Bell stopped distributing its ice cream in Virginia and elsewhere in 2015 after the company halted sales because of listeria contamination. It voluntarily recalled its products when they were linked to 10 listeria cases in four states, including three deaths in Kansas.
In doing so, Blue Bell closed its local distribution center and dozens elsewhere in the country.
Blue Bell makes its ice cream at only three production plants — in its hometown of Brenham, Texas, and in Oklahoma and Alabama. Blue Bell has 59 distribution centers servicing parts of 22 states, including a small section of western Virginia.
With the new distribution locations in Hanover and Suffolk, the company will be able to service much of Virginia with a full product lineup including half-gallons, pints, sherbet quarts, three gallons and snacks.
The company had opened a distribution center in leased space in Henrico County in early 2013 and then relocated that center to leased space in the Northlake Business Park in Hanover in early 2015 before shutting it down.