A sickening end

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Castleberry's was basically about canning stew and hash to be sold in grocery stores across the country. The 15th Street firm did a wonderful job of that for 82 years, establishing itself as a renowned business institution that did Augusta proud.

This is why it was an especially sad day Tuesday when the firm's owner announced Castleberry's would be closing up shop in two months. The loss is substantial. The firm is Richmond County's eighth-largest manufacturing employer. Its closure will ripple throughout the local economy, throwing more than 330 workers out of work and delivering a harsh hit on the tax rolls -- revenues the city and school system can ill afford to lose.

And as if all this isn't bad enough, Augusta also loses a piece of its rich history.

What went wrong? Company management, perhaps in an effort to boost efficiencies and make savings, apparently ended up cutting corners. Such mistakes in judgment can be fatal, especially in the unforgiving food industry.

Consider that if a restaurant's food makes you sick, you'll likely hesitate to go back there again -- and you'll probably advise your family and friends not to go either. If that word gets around enough, the restaurant will lose too many customers to stay in business. And so it is with Castleberry's.

The firm's Toronto-based owner, Connors Bros. Income Fund, said it could not find a buyer for the food products Castleberry makes, even though those same products will henceforth be made in New Jersey at a subsidiary of Hanover Foods Corp., a canned food giant that Connors Bros. found it could do business with.

Surely one of the reasons no buyer could be found is that Castleberry's had to close down for two months last year -- losing $38 million in revenues -- when botulism toxin was found in its chili sauce that apparently caused eight people to get sick in three states and a wrongful death suit to be filed. The federal Food and Drug Administration placed the blame for the contamination squarely on management.

The plant also had another three-week shutdown in March after federal inspection agencies pulled the firm's operating permits, citing operational deviations that caused the parent firm to lose another $700,000. Small wonder no buyer could be found. The word was out that Castleberry's was producing a food product that many people -- fairly or not -- felt could not be safely consumed.

The 330 or so employees who will be out of work deserved better than what they got. Hopefully, they will soon find jobs elsewhere -- and the company is to be commended for offering to help them to do just that.

Sadly, Castleberry's has come to an ignominious end, but let's not forget that for more than eight decades the company did its job well, free of any taint or scandal. That's a record to be proud of.

Not many businesses can stay up and running for that long, particularly in a business that is as competitive and fickle as the food industry.

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Riverman1
87133
Points
Riverman1 09/19/08 - 04:33 am
0
0
They should have hired a

They should have hired a retiring federal inspector and everything would have been fine. If a buyer can't be found, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for MCG to acquire all the land they will ever need at a bargain price.

christian134
1
Points
christian134 09/19/08 - 06:17 am
0
0
My prayers to all who have

My prayers to all who have lost their jobs...I pray God will bless all those with even better jobs in the very near future...

LaTwon
1
Points
LaTwon 09/19/08 - 08:13 am
0
0
now we can buy chinese hash

now we can buy chinese hash made from what? dead prisoners? chinese hot dog chili....... american as chinese apple pie

Captain Awesome
0
Points
Captain Awesome 09/19/08 - 08:37 am
0
0
That's a really good iea,

That's a really good iea, having MCG buy the building/land, especially if they can't find another manufacturing operation to put in there. Our prayers go out to those who lost their jobs.

imdstuf
10
Points
imdstuf 09/19/08 - 09:35 am
0
0
Sadly it is not the first,

Sadly it is not the first, nor will it be the last, to get ruined by greedy managers.

galaxygrl
1270
Points
galaxygrl 09/19/08 - 10:21 am
0
0
I think ther should be some

I think ther should be some legal recourse against Conner Foods for their management practices!

Queen4842
3
Points
Queen4842 09/19/08 - 11:51 am
0
0
I am truly sorry for the

I am truly sorry for the workers but do hold them somewhat responsible as well. If the management team was making them the Workers take short cuts that would possibly affect the product they as proud workers were producing why did it take illness and a death to get attention to that fact? Anyone of those workers could have contacted one of the three local news stations and blown the management team right out of the water before the company allowed it to go so far that people got sick and died. They ultimately let those cans go by praying no one would get sick. That goes on their personal integrity. It is amazing not more got sick and died.

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 09/19/08 - 02:05 pm
0
0
Just where are they going to

Just where are they going to find jobs in Augusta? A call center? I cannoty tell you how many good people I know who have grown up in Augusta and have had to leave because they cannot find good employment here. And the list of employers seems to be shrinking. We keep hearing about new employers like ADP, but they are only a drop in the bucket.. we are losing more jobs than are being created. We need to convene an Economic Summit in Augusta.. bringing together people from government, the business community and the education community to address how Augusta can be a leader in job growth.. and I mean good jobs.. not fastfood jobs or telemarketing jobs.

jewel
3
Points
jewel 09/19/08 - 06:50 pm
0
0
Sweatheart or the old Lily

Sweatheart or the old Lily cup is about to close.

crazyoldman
21
Points
crazyoldman 09/20/08 - 08:57 am
0
0
Bottom line, if you all would

Bottom line, if you all would of bought more Castleberry products they wouldn't be closing and now it's up to you to keep the old Lily Tulip (Sweetheart) plant and others open or just keep buying foreign made/owned products and whining when another U.S. company closes.

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