Maple Leaf plant winds down, plants to sell

Weeks before its Cloverdale plant will shut down, Maple Leaf Foods Inc. says it’s selling the facility to another processed meat company that plans to re-open it next year.

The market outlet at the Cloverdale Maple Leaf Foods plant closed Aug. 12. The whole facility is to close by the end of September.

Weeks before its Cloverdale plant will shut down, Maple Leaf Foods Inc. says it’s selling the facility to another processed meat company that plans to re-open it next year.

Maple Leaf spokesperson Linda Smith said the plant is still scheduled to close on Sept. 30. But the company has found a buyer in Premium Brands.

The food company plans to refurbish the plant and relocate its Richmond, B.C.-based Grimms Fine Foods operation to the 5523 176 Street, Surrey, location by the end of 2012.

In February, Maple Leaf announced plans to close the Cloverdale plant, launching the months-long process of winding down operations here, and issuing layoff notices to 155 employees.

Earlier this month, the plant closed its factory outlet shop. Colourful letters in the window spelled out, “We are closing Aug. 12.” That week, longtime customers picking up their last purchases could be seen saying goodbye to staff with hugs.

Customers appreciated niceties like hams cut in half for seniors on thrifty budgets.

Residents and businesses in downtown Cloverdale always know when the factory is making sausage – there’s a telltale scent of smoke.

At the time of the original announcement that the facility was to be shut down, closure costs – including severance and decommissioning the facility – were anticipated to come in at approximately $12.1 million.

The Cloverdale plant – previously a Schneiders Foods – produced prepared meat products: ham, sliced meat, sausage and deli products for western Canada.

Maple Leaf is consolidating its production facilities in Saskatoon, Manitoba and Ontario.

In February the company said severance packages for the affected Cloverdale employees would go beyond provincial labour requirements. As well, the company promised to provide personal counselling, outplacement services and other support to employees laid off as a result of the closure. They would also be encouraged to seek employment at the company’s other facilities.

Once the move from the leased facility to new digs in Cloverdale is complete, the plant will re-open as a Grimms, bringing an additional 50 to 60 jobs beyond the number currently employed at the Richmond facility, Smith said.

Maple Leaf’s Cloverdale employees have been told that they’re encouraged to apply for those new positions.

“We’re happy that we were able to sell [the Cloverdale plant] and it will continue to have a life in the food business and potentially provide employment for the employees, should they apply for those jobs,” Smith said.Follow the Cloverdale Reporter on Twitter and Facebook. View our print edition online.