GLK Foods announced the Shortsville plant will close in mid-September

SHORTSVILLE — The news that the GLK Foods plant in Shortsville will be closing about midway through September came as a shock to village, town of Manchester and Ontario County officials, none of whom said they saw it coming.

In fact, Manchester Supervisor Jeff Gallahan said he only learned of the news from a farmer he was talking to, just days before the company announced Wednesday it was “consolidating” the plant with its operation in Bear Creek, Wisconsin.

“We’re definitely trying to figure out what’s going on,” said Gallahan, who said his father worked in the 1940s at the plant, which has been in the area for over 100 years. “It’s disappointing, but we’re going to see what we can do to save it.”

The company, formerly known as Great Lakes Kraut, announced the news Thursday. According to a press release issued by the company — which is how several local officials said they learned of the news — the decision comes as a result of expansion opportunities at the Bear Creek plant and does not reflect the valued commitment and talent of the Shortsville staff.

The plant on Clark Street processes cabbage, which is a key ingredient of sauerkraut. Nearby Phelps pays homage to the food with its annual Sauerkraut Festival.

“This consolidation was an extraordinarily difficult business decision, and we recognize the huge impact it will have on our employees and their families,” said GLK President Ryan M. Downs in the press release.

“We are forever grateful for the hard work and dedication of the Shortsville staff, and we intend to support affected employees, both monetarily and through outplacement services, while they transition and search for new employment,” Downs stated.

Production will continue at the plant through mid-September, the company said. Shipping and receiving will continue through the end of the year.

Many of the employees will be retained through this time, the company said.

Ontario County Economic Developer Mike Manikowski said the consolidation affects between 25 and 40 employees, and county Workforce Development stands ready for assistance.

“We’re going to do everything we can to help these people,” Manikowski said.

The closing will have an impact on the regional agricultural economy and Manikowski is concerned about it, but he said there is time for growers and planters to find other markets.

“Please don’t think cabbage is down in Ontario County,” Manikowski said.

The county Industrial Development Agency had approached the company over the last two years as part of its routine business retention and expansion program, although no response from the company was given, he said.

The IDA had helped the company several years ago, but there is no existing assistance, Manikowski said.

Anecdotally, Manikowski said he had heard the company was doing fine so the consolidation news came as a shock to him as well.

“Personally, I think it’s a mistake, but that’s up to them,” Manikowski said. “This is a private, corporate business decision. I think it’s the wrong one, but I’m not in their shoes.”

Gallahan said the number-one goal is to keep the plant here, but as of Thursday afternoon — a day after the news broke — he said he had yet to hear back from Downs.

“If we can’t, we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it,” Gallahan said.

There was talk 10 years ago about closing the Shortsville facility, with Downs at one point saying he was "pretty damn sure" the plant would close.