Making ice cream is no cake walk.
Some time ago, an Edy's Grand Ice Cream job candidate was asked what he thought working at the Fort Wayne plant would
The description smacked of Willy Wonka.
"He thought there were these huge mixing bowls with guys standing on ladders stirring the ice cream with large wooden
spoons," said Gaylord Brooks, a production floor leader and 15-year veteran at the local Edy's plant, 3426 N. Wells
"A lot of people have ideas about how it's done, but there's a little more to it than that."
Edy's expects to fill 120 full-time production positions — paying about $13 an hour — within the next three
months because of demand for its popular Nestle Drumsticks. A sales spike prompted the company to invest nearly $65 million
over the last two years at the Fort Wayne location.
In 2008, Edy's added 114 workers. The company will employ about 700 after the 120 positions are filled. The factory also
churns out Edy's Ice Cream, Nestle Lil' Drums, Skinny Cow and Eskimo Pie products.
Edy's parent company, Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream Inc. of Oakland, Calif., is a more-than-$2 billion business with 7,000
employees and four other plants nationwide. The dessert maker has locations in California, Utah and Maryland.
The Fort Wayne facility is the lone plant experiencing sizable investment, officials said.
Besides the mixing of ingredients and related tasks, job applicants should have a good grasp of general algebra, industrial
math and science. For instance, understanding pasteurization could give a candidate an advantage over others.
"Nothing major, but having a basic knowledge of how it works would be good," Brooks said. "We will teach them
what they need to know, but the more they already know obviously is going to help them on the job."
Chris Duerk started work at the Fort Wayne site about six months ago. With a manufacturing background, the 42-year-old Noble
County resident acknowledges that he figured he knew what to expect at Edy's.
"It was kind of intimidating," he said. "During the tour, I started looking at all of the ice cream piping
and equipment and thought, 'Holy cow. What have I gotten myself into?' "
The anxiety subsided, and Duerk is comfortable in his role as a fruit feeder.
"Training was very thorough. We were told what to watch out for," he said.
"Doing all your checks, making sure of the proper amounts by weight and stuff like that."
And taste testing?
"Yeah, I get to do that," Duerk laughed. "When I first got here, I thought, 'Great, all the ice cream
I want,' but after a while you get over that."
Rick Benson, people support manager, has a ready explanation for Edy's expansion at a time when other companies are cutting
"We're trying to ride out a recession, and so people aren't splurging on big-ticket items," he said. "What
they can splurge on, though, is ice cream. It's a comfort food that allows you to indulge and treat yourself and not spend