Cornelius farm in danger of closure
Zelenka Farms selling Cornelius operation; 50 jobs at risk
There might be fewer flowers and jobs in Cornelius soon. Zelenka Farms, a national botanical corporation whose farms grow plants for sale in chain and hardware stores, is up for sale, including its 361-acre facility in the Cornelius area.
We had a shortfall on sales in May, said Zelenka Farms CEO Eric Ek. The banks said they wouldnt fund us through next year, and so Zelenka is selling off everything: the farms, the land, the inventory. An auction is planned for Aug. 11 in Dallas, Texas, where Zelenka Farms is based. In total, Zelenka operates six farms throughout the U.S., but the Cornelius farm is the only one west of Texas.
Therere a number of interested buyers, said Ek, and were hoping to keep the business together. We can expect a new owner by August 31.
That means a nervous few weeks for Zelenkas 62 workers in its western Washington County location. Berry Nurseries, as it's also known, is located on Chalmers Lane north of Cornelius proper, where it has operated since 2006. Ek said he expects the buyer likely will continue the farm operation and keep the staff employed, but its not a guarantee.
It wouldnt make a lot of sense for a buyer to gut everything, Ek said. We have 2.6 million units in storage, which would make liquidation difficult.
Cornelius city manager Rob Drake confirmed that the city had received notice from the company that at least 50 jobs are in danger.
Its federal law, said Drake. Whenever more than 50 jobs might be cut, they have to let us know. Drake expressed surprise at the closure, noting that the economy is generally on the rise, but also said he had little interaction with the business.
They have a Cornelius mailing address, said Drake, but all their operations are pretty far out of town.
One buyer, said Ek, is interested in purchasing the entire company, including the Cornelius farm. The other buyers want single farms, and Ek confirmed that theres one local prospective buyer in Cornelius.
Its still confidential, so I cant name anyone, said Ek. But there is one local buyer whos interested.
No matter what, the Cornelius farm will operate through September 9 and Ek said even if the buyer dissolves the company, there will be work to do for a while afterwards, taking care of plants as theyre sold and transported.
People are nervous, said Ek. But I totally expect the buyer to continue the farm.