No Relish In Historic Company Closure

Feb 1, 2012

The owner of Grote & Weigel says he’s still hopeful of finding a buyer for the troubled meat processing company. As WNPR’s Harriet Jones, the historic Bloomfield firm is due to shut its doors in less than two weeks.

The smokehouses at Grote & Weigel’s Bloomfield headquarters are still running, for now.

“We’re reaching a point where we’re running out of meat now and we’re running out of casings and all the other supplies we need to make the hotdogs.”

That’s Michael Greiner, the owner and president of Grote & Weigel – he took the tough decision to wind up this company, founded in Connecticut in 1890. Greiner says his situation is far from unique.

“A lot of meat processing companies talk amongst themselves. And I know of several other ones that are hanging on by their fingernails, that probably unless the economy turns around, won’t make it through the next year.”

That’s because meat prices have risen dramatically, while at the same time sales fell during the recession, and have not yet recovered. Greiner is also struggling with a heavy debt load, acquired when he bought out his partner four years ago. He says supermarket chains used to look after small, local producers like Grote & Weigel, but that relationship has also changed.

“It’s gotten astronomically expensive to do business and get any kind of marketing attention or sales attention from these big supermarkets. They just don’t care. If they don’t turn a certain amount of profit on your product then it’s out the door.”

A little more than a year ago, Greiner told Connecticut officials the business was in trouble, and asked if he could become a state supplier for facilities such as UConn, as a way to boost his sales – he says he was turned away.

"A small company like ourselves, two or three hundred thousand pounds of hotdogs a year would have saved over 40 jobs. That's not a huge investment."

Grote & Weigel has been a household name in the state for generations, and Greiner says the response to the company’s plight has been immediate.

“Oh my gosh, it’s been overwhelming. Calls have been pouring in. I’ve had calls from Chicago, Hawaii, Florida, all over.”

Many callers have also been placing orders – sometimes 50 and 60 pounds of hotdogs for individual customers’ freezers. Greiner says those sales are flattering, if too late. But he hasn’t entirely given up hope.

“I’m still trying to find a buyer, and this company would be a very good buy for someone right now.”

As things stand now, Grote & Weigel’s 28 remaining employees will be laid off shortly, this Bloomfield facility will be auctioned at the end of February, and a tradition will come to an end at many Connecticut dinner tables.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.