WESTONS MILLS — Facebook users and customers of C&S Wholesale are disappointed in plans to close the former Olean Wholesale warehouse.
Rumors began circulating last week that the firm, which purchased the Haskell Road facility at the beginning of the year, would be moving operations out of town and laying off more than 100 employees. Area retailers who are customers of C&S received notifications Friday that the firm plans to close the warehouse, now operated under the name WNY Logistics LLC, with transportation and fleet services continuing in Olean. Warehousing duties will be shifted to DuBois, Pa.
Lauren La Bruno, vice president of communications and change management for C&S, declined to comment on the planned timetable or the reasons behind the move.
“Many of the details are still being worked out, and we feel that the first audience should be our employees,” La Bruno said, noting the media would be informed in the future.
While customers were not informed of a timeline for the change, Facebook users reported that it will be between 90 days to four months before the facility is closed.
As of Monday afternoon, no Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification had been published by the company through the state Department of Labor. Under state law, employers must announce through a WARN the closing of a facility within 90 days of the expected separations of staff.
The DuBois site was purchased in 2008 from Penn Traffic as the then-owner of P&C, Quality and BiLo supermarkets attempted to pay off debts. As of Monday afternoon, C&S listed 274 job openings at its facilities, including three in DuBois and at least 11 in each of its two other New York locations. None were listed for Olean.
Ried’s Food Barn owner David Ried, whose family has been buying from Olean Wholesale since 1950, was disappointed by the news.
“We’re a bit surprised that we’re not going to be serviced out of Olean, at least this soon,” he said, noting his father, Charlie Ried, purchased from the wholesaler for decades.
With the realities of a competitive marketplace even for many staples from online retailers, Ried can understand the need to consolidate operations.
But “I’m surprised, and I hope that they fulfill their promise,” he said, with C&S promising lower prices for local stores — and consumers — and more variety of products to help locals compete with big box and online retailers. “We’re hoping we at least get that.”
Founded in 1922, Olean Wholesale supplied dozens of grocery stores and other businesses in the region, including serving as the main supplier for Service Stores Park & Shop in Olean and Portville, Ried’s Food Barn in Olean, Giant Food Mart in Cuba and Wellsville and Parkview Supermarket in Salamanca.
C&S Wholesale Grocers, a Keen, N.H.-based distributor, is owner of the Piggly Wiggly grocery brand and the Best Yet private label. According to the firm’s website, it is the largest wholesale grocery distributor in the nation based on revenue. Net sales totaled around $30 billion in 2015. The company was founded in 1918, serving around 6,500 grocery stores nationwide with more than two dozen warehouse locations. Along with wholesale procurement, the company offers private label brands, marketing and advertising support.