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The Morning Brew: The anatomy of a Dippin' Dots feud

Dippin’ Dots may be a child of the 1980s, but the humble frozen treat company is rolling in attention after its Oklahoma owners showed the world that civility remains in style.

It all started with the discovery of four old negative tweets about Dippin’ Dots sent by President Donald Trump's Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, followed by some press pool snark, and leading, finally, to an earnest, cheerful open letter posted Monday to the Dippin’ Dots website  by Scott Fischer, the Oklahoma City-based CEO of Dippin’ Dots.

“Dear Sean,” reads the letter to Spicer. “…We’ve seen your tweets and we would like to be friends rather than foes. After all, we believe in connecting the dots.”

Those dots. Let's talk about those dots.

The year? 1988. Big hair reined. Cool kids tight-rolled jeans. Ronald Reagan helmed the country. And Dippin' Dots Founder Curt Jones first used liquid nitrogen to create ice cream pellets, according to the Dippin’ Dots website. A company was born.

Fast forward 22 years.

It’s 2010. Barack Obama is president. The country is nursing its Great Recession wounds, including Dippin' Dots.

It put on a brave face.

An archived version of the Dippin’ Dots 2010 website states “the process of cryogenic encapsulation” means the ice cream spheres are now available “in thousands of locations worldwide in theme parks, fairs & festivals and franchised store locations.”

 “When the smooth, creamy ice cream begins to melt in their mouth … a fan is born!”

Sean Spicer would not be among those fans.

“Dippin dots is NOT the ice cream of the future,” -- April 7, 2010,” wrote Spicer on Twitter.

According to Spicer’s LinkedIn profile, he’d spent five months as a partner at a global public relations firm, but hadn’t yet taken a gig as chief strategist and communications director for the Republican National Committee, that April day he fired off the first in a string of anti-Dippin’ Dots tweets.

On September 22, 2011, Spicer launched his second attack:

“I think I have said this before, but Dippin Dots are notthe ice cream of the future,” wrote Spencer.

At the time, tweets aside, the company had been hit with a one-two punch: years-long dwindling recession sales and a costly patent battle, which it lost. 

Those factors contributed to its 2011 bankruptcy filing, noted reports of the day.

Spicer rubbed it in.

“Ice cream of the Past: Dippin’ Dots files for Bankruptcy,” he tweeted on Nov. 4, 2011, linking to an article on the company’s troubles.

“After a four-year battle with its biggest lender, Dippin' Dots Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Paducah, Ky., to avoid foreclosure,” The Wallstreet Journal dispatch stated.

But not all felt ready to let the ice cream of the future fade into the past.

A private equity firm helmed by Oklahoma City businessman Scott Fischer purchased Dippin’ Dots in late 2012, reported The Oklahoman. The company kept its headquarters in Paducah, KY.

Yet in September 2015, Spicer remained unsatisfied.

“If Dippin Dots was truly the ice cream of the future they would not have run out of vanilla cc @Nationals," he wrote on Sept. 7, 2015," apparently from a baseball game.

Fischer persisted. The company experienced 60 percent growth between 2013 and 2015, he told The Oklahoman in May, and things were expected to get even better.

Fast forward. It’s 2017. Donald Trump is president. Sean Spicer is his press secretary. The "ice cream of the future" is still in business.

And reporters on Sunday unearthed Spicer’s odd one-sided Dippin’ Dots Twitter feud.  

Enter the snark.

“Could he get through an entire five minute speech to the press without slipping in an attack on his arch-enemy Dippin’ Dots, The Ice Cream Of The Future?” pondered A.V. Club reporter William Hughes.

Gleeful headlines amassed to capitalize on the absurdity of the moment.

Then came the wholesome offering of spherical frozen goodness, the olive branch.

Fischer posted a letter to Spicer on the company’s website Monday, writing that the company would like to treat Spicer and the press corps to an ice cream social.

“What do you say?" Fischer wrote. "We’ll make sure there’s plenty of all your favorite flavors.”

The company also sent Spicer a tweet.

“@seanspicer, let’s connect the dots!”

“How about we do something great for those who have served our nation and 1st responders,” Spicer wrote back.

Can we flash-freeze civility into tiny, tasty spheres? Can we cryogenically encapsulate kindness?

No, but in an instant, an American confectioner with its heart in Oklahoma and its headquarters in Kentucky can win the internet and warm cold hearts.

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Juliana Keeping

Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award... Read more ›