Dippin' Dots founder takes control, lays off 16

Founder Curt Jones has resumed daily control over financially troubled Dippin' Dots, as the Paducah-based ice cream company has cut another 16 workers, including its president and operations vice president.

"I'm trying to restructure the company so that we're the proper size and will be profitable even if sales continue to be down this year," he said.

Jones last week let go of President Tom Leonard, who had run Samsonite before joining Dippin' Dots in August 2006, and Operations Vice President Dominic Fontana, who had spent about 17 years with Häagen-Dazs.

The maker of super-frozen ice cream cut an additional 14 jobs Tuesday, after having let 15 people go in December amid merger negotiations with an undisclosed firm.

"Basically, that deal fell through after several months, in part due to the economy and the financing situation," Jones said.

Cuts in the past week dropped the payroll from 185 to 169, including nine people on leave, said Steve Heinsner, administration director. About 150 workers are at Paducah headquarters, and the rest are field staff and personnel at the company's California warehouse.

Jones said he has held four regional meetings to give franchisees his plans to improve the company.

"We're trying to simplify our business and sell more ice cream," he said. "Even though there's no assurance with the economy, we still feel positive about turning the company around."

Nicholasville-based Alltech is a marketing partner in Dippin' Dots Global but does not have a financial interest in the Paducah-based company, Alltech chief executive Pearse Lyons said Friday.