Markdale, ON – September 4, 2019 will mark a decade since a devastating fire destroyed Chapman’s ice cream factory in Markdale, Ontario. Ignited by a welder’s spark, it took only hours for 36 years of hard work to go up in flames. As an iconic Canadian brand, the loss was felt from coast to coast.
The fire took three days to put out and was so big the municipality ran out of water, recalls Penny Chapman. But even as the firefighters were leaving the smoldering ruins, her husband David called a staff meeting to announce the factory would be rebuilt. “It would have been easy for us to walk away,” says Penny. “But we felt we had a responsibility to our employees and the community of Markdale to keep going.”
At the time of the fire, Chapman’s employed 350 people in a town with a population of around 1,200. The Chapman family made sure not a single employee missed a pay cheque or a Christmas bonus, a decision that solidified Chapman’s reputation as a leader in Canadian corporate social responsibility.
Working around the clock, the entire Chapman’s team and countless community members pulled together and Chapman’s was making ice cream out of a temporary facility only seven weeks after the blaze. “It was both uplifting and challenging to have to rely on the kindness of strangers,” says Penny, “The support we received from right across Canada was unexpected and inspiring.”
Despite numerous bureaucratic road blocks, construction of Project Phoenix – a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility the length of two football fields – began before the end of the year.
A decade later, Chapman’s has risen from the ashes to become the largest independent ice cream manufacturer in Canada. The company is also Markdale’s largest employer, with 700 full-time and 150 seasonal workers.
Chapman’s ongoing commitment to quality and innovation has been recognized by national and international consumer organizations. In recent years, the International Ice Cream Consortium (IICC) has awarded Chapman’s 10 different awards, including Best Ice Cream (for Chapman’s Premium Caramel Saucy Spots), Most Innovative Ice Cream (for Chapman’s Premium Canadian Collection Oatmeal Stickwich Cookie) and Ice Cream Maker of the Year.
Despite experiencing phenomenal growth since the rebuild, Chapman’s remains a family-owned business with deep roots in its home community. As an exemplary corporate citizen Chapman’s has donated $1M to the local hospital, $1M to the local hospice and has pledged $2M to a new local school. That’s in addition to hundreds of donations made in support of children’s programs right across Canada.
This year, Chapman’s is proud to support Caribou protection programs across Canada through the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). For each box of Chapman’s new Yukon Caribou products sold across Canada, 25 cents will be donated towards these efforts, explains Penny and David’s son Ashley Chapman, who serves as VP of Chapman’s Ice Cream. “Like most Canadians, we recognize that it is our responsibility to protect the biodiversity of our great country for future generations,” Ashley says. “We want to contribute to this process and bring attention to the challenges facing Canadian wildlife.”
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