Lindsay Skilling, the CEO of Gifford’s HomeMaine Ice Cream, samples one of the company’s flavors in front of a Gifford’s stand in Skowhegan in 2016. Photo courtesy of Tim Greenway

SKOWHEGAN — Following a devastating fire that brought ice cream production at the Gifford’s factory to a halt in February, the company’s chief executive officer said this week that select flavors are slowly coming back to shelves and the plan is for the Skowhegan facility to be fully operational again by the end of the year.

“We just figured out a plan, and some of our retail quarts are back on shelves,” Lindsay Skilling, CEO of Gifford’s HomeMaine Ice Cream, said Tuesday. “They’re not made by us, they’re made by a co-packer, but we have about eight currently available and we have more coming in the next three weeks.”

Two out-of-state manufacturers with the equipment needed to package Gifford’s quarts of ice cream will produce the eight flavors: coffee, vanilla, cannoli, sea salt caramel truffle, peanut butter pie, Dough Your Job, Power Play Fudge, and Full Quart Pretz.

The flavors hitting shelves again were chosen based on what the manufacturing partners are capable of producing at their own facilities, said Skilling, who declined to name those manufacturers.

“(Those flavors) are popular but also there’s certain flavors that Gifford’s makes our own bases and ripples for, so that added to the complexity of trying to find another manufacturer for some of our flavors,” Skilling said. “To be honest, some of our flavors in retail haven’t and won’t be able to be made for us until we’re back up and running.”

Repairs are continuing in the production area of Gifford’s Skowhegan factory, Skilling said, where the damage caused by the fire Feb. 2 was “extensive.” She said she still doesn’t have an estimate on the cost of the damage, explaining that it took months just to clean the area and assess the damage.


Fire officials said in the days after the fire that it was caused by a heat gun that was left atop a pallet of combustible materials in a walk-in freezer.

Approximately 2.8 million gallons of ice cream were produced at the Skowhegan facility last year, Skilling said. The company was expecting to produce close to 3 million gallons this year, but then the fire struck. Skilling didn’t have an estimate for the volume of ice cream the company will produce this year, but said its sales are coming in comparably low. Even with a network of production partners manufacturing ice cream for retail and at Gifford’s stands, Skilling said no more than 50% of the company’s usual offerings have been made available for purchase.

“It was a tough day, it’s been a tough year,” Skilling said. “However, you know, we’re resilient and it’s business as usual as much as it can be.”

Skilling said she’s hopeful the factory will be fully operational again sometime late this fall. Beyond rebuilding, Skilling said the company may make some additional improvements to the factory. Operations will remain firmly rooted in Skowhegan and she said that no Gifford’s employees have been laid off or furloughed as a result of the fire.

Firefighters extinguish a fire in February from the third story of the production facility for Gifford’s HomeMaine Ice Cream at 25 Hathaway St. in Skowhegan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

Skilling took over as CEO in 2016 and represents the fifth generation of the Gifford family to lead operations. She said the fire was a dark day in the company’s more than century-long history, but it has come with one unexpected benefit.

“It really has brought us closer as an entire organization,” she said. “As horrible as this has been, it’s brought us a lot closer.”

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