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Garelick Farms tells workers Lynn plant is closing

The decision, announced to workers on Tuesday, came as a surprise to city leaders.

A "now hiring drivers" sign hangs in front of Garelick Farms on the Lynnway Tuesday, May 22. Workers at the Lynn plant said the facility is slated to close. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — One of the city’s largest employers is planning to close its plant on the Lynnway, The Item has learned.

Garelick Farms, launched in 1928 as a one-truck operation then known as West Lynn Creamery, will shutter its milk, orange juice, and soft serve ice cream production operation this fall, according to two workers at the plant.

An employee who was not authorized to talk to reporters said more than 100 workers were asked to gather at a Town Hall style meeting at 7 a.m. Tuesday, where they were told the plant would be closed. A second session was held at 3 p.m. for second shift workers, the source said.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank, said he spoke with Aubrey Leake, Garelick’s plant manager, who confirmed he told his employees that several U.S. plants, including Lynn, were slated for closure.

“This came out of the blue,” said Cowdell. “We had no notice and we were told today this is not a Lynn problem, rather it’s the result as a nationwide decrease in milk consumption.”  

Mayor Thomas M. McGee said he too was shocked by the news.

“This is the first time I’m hearing about it today and it’s really disappointing that they appear to be closing in Lynn without any notice to the city,” he said. “There are lots of jobs and lots of Lynn residents work there. We have reached out to Garelick and trying to get our hands around what’s happened.”

Garelick is owned by Dallas-based Dean Foods. In the last few years, it appears the milk business has soured. Their Bangor, Maine milk processing facility closed in 2013; its Virginia plan closed last year; the Sheboygan, Wis., and Rochester, Ind., facilities were shuttered in 2015.

“The mood was very sad, tearful and people were confused,” the worker said. “The employees feel like they were misled and lied to. When rumors surfaced last year about a possible plant closure, management told us to be team players and not to quit. Now look what’s happened.”  

Leake, Reace Smith, the company’s spokeswoman and Sherri Baker, the company’s vice president of investor relations, did not return multiple calls seeking comment.

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