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Harker's exits food distribution business

Monday, November 19, 2007

(Photo)
LaCrosse, Wisc.-based distributor Reinhart FoodService announced Friday that it will acquire the distribition business of Harker's Distribution. The deal will be finalized Nov. 26.
LaCrosse, Wisc.-based distributor Reinhart FoodService announced Friday that it has entered into an agreement to acquire the distribution business of Harker's Distribution, Inc.

Although no one will go on record as to how many Harker's employees will be laid off due to the acquisition, representatives from Western Iowa Tech Community College's Job Training Partners Program and Iowa Workforce Development will be on hand at Harker's on Tuesday, Nov. 27 and Thursday, Nov. 29.

In June, Reinhart FoodService, the third largest, privately held foodservice distributor in the United States, acquired Harker's eastern Wisconsin and northeast Illinois sales area.

Jeff Kelly, Harker's Distribution, Inc.'s vice president of marketing and vendor development characterized this move as "a change in the company's direction."

The transaction of Reinhart to acquire Harker's sales territories in 11 states is scheduled to close on Nov. 26.

Harker's, however, will retain its meat processing operations in Le Mars and its Lombardi Meats operation in Colorado and Minnesota.

"The move to exit the distribution business will allow Harker's to return to our processing roots," said Harker's CEO Jim Harker in a statement released on Friday, "and focus on our business as a custom cut steak operation and processor."

Further, he insisted, it was determined that Reinhart FoodServices would be better able to meet the distribution service needs of customers due to the proximity of their facilities.

"With Harker's focusing on the processing business and Reinhart as our number one customer," Harker concluded, "we anticipate long-term growth in our business."

According to a news release, Reinhart FoodService will continue to offer Harker's branded products on an exclusive basis to all current Harker's customers as well as to existing Reinhart FoodService customers.

A leading broadline foodservice distributor for more than 30 years, Reinhart delivers more than 112 million cases of national exclusive products each year and ranks as Burger King's and and Subway's largest distributors in the United States.

"Our earlier acquisition of Harker's eastern Wisconsin and northeast Illinois territories has proven to be a great fit for Reinhart FoodService," Reinhart FoodService CEO Mark Drazkowski announced Friday. "We look forward to adding Harker's meats to our portfolio and welcoming many of Harker's drivers and salespeople to our team."

Harker's, which began its operations in Le Mars in 1908, is currently Plymouth County's second largest employer.

Heather Vanover, Harker's vice president of human development, said the company's employees were informed of the sale Thursday night and Friday. She declined to say how many employees they currently employ or how many will be affected by the acquisition. Yet both she and Reyes Holdings LLC spokesperson Molly Reilly acknowledged there may be some overlap in the two companies' territories.

"Reinhart plans to offer jobs to many of Harker's distribution managers, route drivers, and salespeople," Reilly said in a telephone interview Monday morning.

"When (the eligible Harker's employee) is offered a job," Reilly continued, he'll be able to bring his seniority with him and will be eligible for Reinhart benefits from Day One."

She stressed that the acquisition will have benefits for both companies.

"Reinhart will be taking over distribution in Harker's former territories," Reilly informed, "but it will also be adding Harker's meat products into its own distribution network for the very first time."

According to Larry Joines of Western Iowa Tech's Job Training Partners Program, services will be available to those Harker's workers laid off due to the acquisition.

"Job Training Partners and Iowa Workforce Development will be making an on-site visit to the plant at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 27 and Friday, Nov. 29," he explains.

Joines says Job Training Partners will traditionally work with 20-25 percent of the employees affected by changes in a company.

"The holidays are a terrible time for anyone to lose a job," he says, "but it is becoming increasingly common for companies to start looking at their bottom lines right before the start of a new year."

Joines says some of the services he'll be helping affected workers which will include resumes, cover letters, individual job searches and training.


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Greetings,

As with all large takeovers, many details remain in hiding. As an unemployed driver, that actual reality of the situation is that Harkers was bought primarily for the customer based and then key employees were cherry picked to maintain that customer base. As for the rest of us, we are unemployed…to the tune of several hundred workers. The only ones that made it to the new company were simply picked for the above reason. As with all big business, the reality of the situation is always kept secret because it is not "PC".

-- Posted by shawn@schroeter.com on Thu, Dec 13, 2007, at 3:53 PM

My husband and I own and operate a small restaurant in Tonganoxie, Ks. We have done business with Harkers off and on for 18 years. With the sudden sell-out of Harkers we are unable to get the product we are used to.

Reinhart has tried to give us "a comparable product" but NOT the product we want. All we want is the product we have always gotten from Harkers, not anything else. We were told we would continue to get the same products, no problem. We have nothing but problems for the last 4-5 weeks.

I know this comment won't do a bit of good, but I wanted to air my comments, and let Harkers and Reinhart know we are not at all happy!

Oh, we have Grandpa's Burger Box in Tonganoxie, Kansas.

-- Posted by dismith on Thu, Dec 27, 2007, at 3:04 PM

How I came about this article I was looking to see if Harkers still had a web site so I could get in contact with them. I'm a pissed off Reinhart/Harker customer. I thought we were to get product that was going to be produce under Harkers specs, but so far I have got nothing that is comparable. My question is why would a big company like Reinhart would buy a company like Harker which was the BEST center of the plate company and not keep there product? I will and I know alot of Reinhart/Harker customer will soon find other companies to buy from. It maybe just because you lied to use tell us you will keep Harkers product. I will be getting in contact with Jim Harkers to voice my thought. Thanks

West Side Family Restaurant Grinnell, Iowa

-- Posted by Bruce Blankenfeld on Thu, Jun 19, 2008, at 7:05 PM


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