By Rochelle Burns, PhD, social historian

Chapman’s ice cream: of ice cream and courage. The story began in 1973. David and Penny Chapman bought a small creamery in Markdale, a village just south of Georgian Bay.

The Chapman family business began with four employees, two trucks, a small space and a big dream of making ice cream that had a personal touch.  Part of that was to move to a small town instead of a big city centre.

Over the years, the Chapman brand created an endless stream of innovative flavours, including  Canadian Vanilla, Eh!, vanilla ice cream that reveals a red maple leaf in each slice. They also began producing products to help those with allergies enjoy ice cream without any problems.

Then it happened. The unthinkable. On Sept. 4, 2009, a major fire gutted Chapman’s creamery. No one was injured. But all seemed lost.

Regardless, they decided, once again, not to relocate to a large city centre. Their sense of loyalty to the town and the people who supported them from their meager beginnings and throughout this trying time, kicked in.

A company statement said it all. “The community and Chapman’s worked tirelessly to build our new manufacturing facility, appropriately named ‘Phoenix.'” And like a phoenix, they rose out of the ashes. They used a small plant to keep producing ice cream until the one year anniversary of the fire, then moved into the larger premises, which included wastewater treatment and, happily, continued growing their brand name.

The only disappointment in writing this delicious story was finding, on a website that rates the most popular ice cream flavours, that chocolate came in second behind vanilla.

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