May 1, 2012
DELPHOS — The new owner of I & K Distributors will close the plant by September, the company confirmed Tuesday.Lipari Foods had been declining comment on the closing, but late Thursday confirmed it will shut down the facility.“This was a difficult decision to make. We know the I & K employees are hardworking, dedicated individuals and that this decision will impact their local community. However, we believe it is a necessary business decision to continue to meet our customers' expectations and our company's long-term goals to be the premier perimeter-of-the-store distributor,” Lipari President and CEO Thom Lipari said. “The expectation is that consolidating the warehouses will create a stronger business that will allow for growth and future job creation in the areas we service.”Lipari will move the Delphos work to its Warren, Mich., headquarters. Where possible, I & K employees have been encouraged to apply for employment with Lipari after the closure, the company said in a news release. The company is also providing “separation packages” and support in finding potential new employment, it said.The lost jobs are being felt in the community.“It's very sad. My dad, aunt, and cousin will be losing their jobs & my dad's girlfriend was just laid off from Reser's (beside I&k).” Crystal Sandy wrote on The Lima News' Facebook page. “It'll be tough to make ends meet and hard for those people who have been there 30+ years to have to look for employment.”Lipari had previously told Mayor Michael Gallmeier and Safety Service Director Greg Berquist that he will close the warehousing and logistics company for potato salad and other prepared foods, Berquist said Tuesday.“He confirmed closing and said they are moving the work to other facilities,” Berquist said. “We have not received a timeline from Lipari regarding when the closing will happen. I suspect it will be some time in the fall, after the peak summer season.”Lipari Foods announced the purchase of the plant April 17. At the time, Lipari spokeswoman Laura Liras said the company had made no decisions about the future of the Delphos location.I & K Distributors was founded in 1966 with the purchase of Yoder salad business, specializing in manufacturing and distributing salads to 75 Delphos-area customers on a single company truck. Some years ago, the distribution and food preparation businesses split. The food business remains, now owned by Reser's Fine Foods.Reser's acquired the Gressel Drive prepared-food facility in February when Orval Kent and parent company Chef Solutions filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Berquist said Reser's has been a good community steward and partner, reaching out to organizations and nonprofits in town.The city has records of 124 people working at I & K, many of whom are truck drivers; some others in sales, Berquist said. At least some employees have been offered opportunities to work for other Lipari facilities.“We never like it when people lose their jobs,” Berquist said. “We'll be doing the best we can to help employees here. We're talking with Job and Family Services about their services and supports.”You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.