Philly meat supplier closes, idles 100

Brooks Provision LLC, 3300 block of South Front Street, has closed, idling 100 workers at the South Philadelphia-based beef, pork, poultry, lamb, seafood and cold cuts shipping company.

Brooks trucked supplies to more than 1,000 clients around the northeastern U.S. "As of Monday they laid off everyone but the four guys who are emptying the building," John Preston, business manager at Teamsters Local 929, which represents the workers, told me.

"The inventory and the accounts receivables were sold to Quaker Valley Co." in Northeast Philadelphia, where workers are also Teamsters. "The building's going to be vacant by the end of May." Property owner is Paradigm Properties, Boston.

The company last winter hired a new chief executive, Lance Wimmer, and agreed to a new three-year labor contract that allowed substantial restructuring, according to the union. That made the abrupt closing a surprise. Workers were told they lost their jobs as they reported for shifts Monday, without the legally-required 60-day mass layoff notice.

Managers at the firm's office didn't return calls seeking comment. Last month Brooks said it had decided to stop servicing discount retailer Dollar Tree Stores, which accounted for less than 15% of its business, as part of an "operational and financial restructring."

Workers trace the company's troubles to its purchase by private investment firm Crystal Ridge Partners, of Maplewood NJ and Philadelphia investor William Green's WSG Partners LLC, in 2006, from members of the DeMento family of Philadelphia. Green and Crystal partner Rodney Eshelman didn't return calls seeking comment.

The new owners "milked the cow without feeding it. There's nothing left," said Preston, who worked at Brooks for 18 years before going fulltime with the union. Workers will meet to discuss their options at Teamsters Local 929's hall, 4345 Frankford St., 10 a.m.. Saturday.