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Pfeiffer to close its plant in Wilson Production planned to end by Nov. 20

Pfeiffer Foods, Wilson's largest private employer with 150 workers, plans to shut down its plant by the week before Thanksgiving, employees were told Thursday.

The facility at 683 Lake St., which produces salad dressing, is the area's second-largest employer behind the Wilson School District, Town Supervisor Joseph A. Jastrzemski said.

"It's extremely devastating to our area," Jastrzemski said. "It's going to have a great impact on our village, on our business district."

The facility, which has been in operation since the early 1950s, also plans to reduce its work force to 40 by mid-October, Jastrzemski said.

Pfeiffer is a division of T. Marzetti Co., which essentially is the specialty foods subsidiary of Lancaster Colony Corp., a publicly traded company based in Columbus, Ohio, that makes and sells food, housewares and automotive supplies.

Employees were informed of the company's plans during a morning meeting Thursday.

A company representative told The Buffalo News that production at the plant will be phased out by Nov. 20.

"There's greater efficiency in consolidating those operations into other facilities of our specialty foods [subsidiary]," said Earle Brown, investor relations consultant for Lancaster Colony.

Marzetti Co. has two other salad dressing and sauce production facilities in the eastern half of the country -- in Columbus and Horse Cave, Ky. -- Brown said.

A former Buffalo restaurant called the Marine Grille is where Samuel Pfeiffer originally developed salad dressings for his chef salad. In the late 1950s, he began expanding the varieties and sold them through local supermarkets, eventually reaching down the East Coast.

Lancaster Colony acquired Pfeiffer Foods, including the Wilson plant, in 1983, Brown said.

In January 2007, the company announced it was going to layoff up to 56 workers by March of that year.

Randy M. Roberts, a foreman who has worked at the plant 21 years, said the company had hired a few people back since those layoffs.

Roberts said the facility has two production shifts and an overnight maintenance shift, and most of the facility's employees live in the surrounding area of Wilson, Lockport and Newfane.

He said he believes his family will be able to make it through what lies ahead with the pending layoff.

"We're going to have to be making some adjustments, some big adjustments," he said.

e-mail: abesecker@buffnews.com

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