Toledo Talk

Hickory Farms leaving Toledo

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/realestate/20170301/CRED03/170229876

:( Damn.

Some good people in that company losing their jobs - looks like some are relocating, which is awesome, but.... ugh. This one is pretty sad to me.

created by endcycle on Mar 02, 2017 at 11:22:50 am     Comments: 46

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Ever since they closed their HQ location in Arrowhead, I thought they only had a small staff here in Toledo. They also had a warehouse in Arrowhead at one point.

posted by Hoops on Mar 02, 2017 at 11:35:24 am     #  

I was involved in the HQ move. At the time of that move, we had around 75ish FTEs in Toledo, dropping down to around 50 or 60 (depending on interns/seasonals) by the time I left the company. The distribution center was moved to Joliet a few years prior to me coming on board.

The sale of the company from Sun Capital (who already had sliced and diced and leveraged the shit out of them) to Modjule really made this move an obvious one - they removed a bunch of the senior leadership team in Toledo and replaced with Chicago people pretty much immediately, so this was coming.

It just.... sucks.

posted by endcycle on Mar 02, 2017 at 12:22:48 pm     #  

I used to enjoy going to the Hickory Farms stores in the mall when they had real retail stores instead of just the kiosk at holidays.

We are losing a lot of Toledo legends.

posted by classylady on Mar 02, 2017 at 12:53:37 pm     #  

We are losing a lot of Toledo legends.

I read this as Dick Ransom.

posted by justread on Mar 02, 2017 at 01:12:02 pm     #  

Interesting move. Quadrupling your rent isn't a decision to be taken lightly. There is great opportunity in Chicago and I hope some Toledo based folks are able to take advantage.

posted by upso on Mar 02, 2017 at 01:46:56 pm     #  

by legends I meant Toledo based companies that are well known such as Caphelon, Hickory Farms, Anderson's, etc.

I'm surprised they moved downtown from Maumee instead of just relocating to Chicago a few years ago

posted by classylady on Mar 02, 2017 at 01:59:46 pm     #  

classylady posted at 12:59:46 PM on Mar 02, 2017:

by legends I meant Toledo based companies that are well known such as Caphelon, Hickory Farms, Anderson's, etc.

I'm surprised they moved downtown from Maumee instead of just relocating to Chicago a few years ago

So, at the time of the move downtown, Sun Capital owned HF. They had systematically sold off assets, preferring to run mostly as expense rather than capital costs and using the sale of assets to pay down revolver debt at other Sun Cap companies (standard capital firm stuff - buy companies, sell assets, leverage to cover expenses, then sell the very streamlined company for a profit to a true operator). The sale of the old HQ facilitated the move to the downtown area, picking up a cheap lease / rental.

Modjule (Chicago) bought HF in 2015, well after the move.

posted by endcycle on Mar 02, 2017 at 02:08:13 pm     #  

"We have a great brand that is very beloved, but it's thought of as your dad's Hickory Farms," Pearse said. "We are transforming and reinventing this brand."

Commercials with a bunch of kids bungee jumping and then gobbling up some summer sausage. That ought to do it.

posted by Ace_Face on Mar 02, 2017 at 02:08:55 pm     #   2 people liked this

"Hickory Farms. Cash us outside how bow dat" http://giphy.com/gifs/30-rock-sme-how-do-you-1Qdp4trljSkY8

posted by TrilbyGuy on Mar 02, 2017 at 04:16:18 pm     #   1 person liked this

Today's Blade headline and article tells us that Hickory Farms is leaving Toledo because they need to attract "top talent."

Don't they realize You Will Do Better in Toledo?

posted by dell_diva on Mar 03, 2017 at 08:13:24 am     #  

That article makes me ill. There's a little too much logic of consolidation and convenience with the move to make a ridiculous statement that the move has anything to do with a dearth of talent. That sounds like a lack of vision and leadership. That was a very unwarranted swipe, and a bullshit excuse.

posted by ahmahler on Mar 03, 2017 at 08:55:44 am     #  

Nothing to do with talent. Just corporate America doing what they do. I didnt blame Hickory or Andersons founding family's from selling or in Andersons case going public. But this is what happens (this move and andersons retail) when "big business" gets involved.

However, if true that in 2007 they did 180 million in revs and last year only 37 million as the article states, they have much bigger problems than the mailing address of their corporate HQ.

posted by Xbuckeyex on Mar 03, 2017 at 09:11:14 am     #  

Nothing to do with talent. Just corporate America doing what they do. I didnt blame Hickory or Andersons founding family's from selling or in Andersons case going public. But this is what happens (this move and andersons retail) when "big business" gets involved.

However, if true that in 2007 they did 180 million in revs and last year only 37 million as the article states, they have much bigger problems than the mailing address of their corporate HQ.

posted by Xbuckeyex on Mar 03, 2017 at 09:11:15 am     #  

dell_diva posted at 07:13:24 AM on Mar 03, 2017:

Today's Blade headline and article tells us that Hickory Farms is leaving Toledo because they need to attract "top talent."

Don't they realize You Will Do Better in Toledo?

What a load of shit. I worked with some incredibly talented and smart people there. We had no problem (none) attracting good talent in toledo during my time there.

Such a swipe at the people who worked there as well as the town HF was founded in. Terrible.

posted by endcycle on Mar 03, 2017 at 09:17:45 am     #  

From the Blade story

Chicago:

The new [Hickory Farms'] headquarters is on the city’s West Loop, just south of the Willis Tower, Chicago’s tallest building.

Hickory Farms’ parent company, Modjule LLC, is also headquartered in Chicago.

Though Hickory Farms’ headquarters had remained in metro Toledo, a sizable chunk of business previously left for Illinois.

In 2006, officials announced they would close a warehouse and distribution center in Maumee and consolidate operations at a new 250,000-square-foot facility in Joliet, about 40 miles southwest of downtown Chicago.

At the time, company officials said nearly 90 percent of their vendors were in Iowa, Wisconsin, or Chicago.

Ms. Pearse said Thursday that many of Hickory Farms’ suppliers remain in the Chicago area.


Talent:

Diane Pearse, who took over as the firm’s top executive early last year ...

“We need to attract talent that has experience in retail product development and merchandising, we have to attract talent that has experience in retail marketing, we have to have talent that has e-commerce marketing and e-commerce sales experience,” Ms. Pearse said. “That quite frankly isn’t the focus for Toledo. Toledo is a manufacturing town.”


Toledo:

“We were not aware they were even planning to move,” said Calvin Lawshe the city’s director of economic and business development. “We would have been at the table trying to keep them here.”

While Mr. Lawshe said he wouldn’t question Ms. Pearse’s decision — and acknowledged that Toledo will never be Chicago — he did say that downtown Toledo is in a renaissance period.

“We’re changing and we’re becoming more attractive to young people,” he said. “The ability to live downtown, near water, near work, I think is attractive.”

Mr. Lawshe also said he has not heard similar concerns about attracting top talent to Toledo from other business executives.


HF management:

Hickory Farms is refocusing on growth after the company’s previous ownership attempted to squeeze out as much profit as possible with little thought to the future.

posted by jr on Mar 03, 2017 at 09:37:10 am     #   1 person liked this

From the Crain’s Chicago Business story

"We determined that in order to take Hickory Farms to the next level, we need to get to a world-class city with great talent in the areas of retail, product development, merchandising, marketing and e-commerce," Pearse said. "On top of that, Chicago is a hub for supply-chain talent and it's located close to a lot of our food manufacturers."

Hickory Farms is following several larger food-related businesses that have relocated to downtown Chicago from the suburbs and outside the area, or are in the process of doing so. The list includes Kraft Heinz and its Oscar Mayer unit, Conagra Brands, McDonald's, Archer Daniels Midland and Sara Lee meat spinoff Hillshire Brands.

The company has about 100 year-round employees but employs thousands during the peak holiday season, Pearse said. But she said Hickory Farms wants to add new products and boost sales in other parts of the year.

"We have a great brand that is very beloved, but it's thought of as your dad's Hickory Farms," Pearse said. "We are transforming and reinventing this brand."


I'm shocked that Pearse did not use the word "millennials" as part of the transformation and reinvention.


Excerpts from the Mar 1, 2017 new release posted to the Hickory Farms' website.

The company is eyeing growth through new customer segments and new product offerings, while expanding current sales channels, which include retail, wholesale, ecommerce and catalog for consumer and corporate gifting.

“Our mission is to be the best retailer in the food-gifting space, and to accomplish that, we need to focus on our strategic priorities,” said Diane Pearse, CEO. “The Chicago market is rich with retail companies, food manufacturers and ecommerce businesses, so as we grow our business, we will be able to attract the additional talent we need to transform the company.”

To grow the company, leadership considered the advantages of creating a central hub that makes it more efficient for Hickory Farms to do business. The company’s key suppliers are in the Chicago area and Midwest region, and its distribution warehouse is in nearby Joliet, Ill.

... the company will continue to maintain roots in its hometown, as some business functions will be run from a Toledo office. However, key business functions will move to Chicago, including senior leadership, marketing, product development and merchandising, and supply chain.

“We are thrilled Hickory Farms is joining the growing family of companies and corporations that call Chicago home,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “Between our diverse economy, transportation infrastructure and unparalleled talent, Chicago is a perfect fit for Hickory Farms, and we look forward to being part of its bright future.”

“This investment by Hickory Farms will produce good jobs for Illinois residents and help strengthen our economy,” Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said. “We’re thrilled that Hickory Farms chose to relocate to Illinois."

Pearse took over as CEO in March 2016. She has more than 35 years of experience in operations, financial management and leadership roles with consumer product and retail companies such as Redbox, Crate & Barrel and Garrett Brands, LLC.

posted by jr on Mar 03, 2017 at 10:22:18 am     #  

If they had dropped a couple of strawberry candies in the box with this announcement, I wouldn't have noticed how much was box and how little was cheese.

posted by justread on Mar 03, 2017 at 10:32:38 am     #   3 people liked this

Oh man, I had totally forgotten about those candies. My mouth started watering just at the thought of them.

posted by Johio83 on Mar 03, 2017 at 10:36:21 am     #  

As a lifelong Toledoian, I find the comment about "top talent" extremely offensive. Nothing like encouraging our young people to leave the city after graduating high school/college with comments like that.

posted by classylady on Mar 03, 2017 at 10:55:10 am     #   3 people liked this

After they get settled in Chicago HF should consider a CEO who can 1) explain a business decision in business terms without sh!tting on a certain demographic and 2) sell people on the differences between a high cost of living high crime area and northwest Ohio. Seriously I can't believe someone who has that much experience can't explain what they did in a better way.

posted by MsArcher on Mar 03, 2017 at 11:03:24 am     #   3 people liked this

Apparantly a block of their smokey bar cheese is the same density as C4 explosive... I found out the hard way in 2005 at Miami International Airport (which has excellent screening proceedures) while bringing some back in my carry on bag.

posted by Mike21 on Mar 03, 2017 at 11:08:22 am     #   2 people liked this

I'm sad to see any Toledo born business be systematically dismantled and moved (not to mention the loss of jobs), but HF's offerings are wildly out of tune with current tastes. With the sheer variety of artisanal cheese, charcuterie and condiments currently available at supermarkets, the internet, restaurants, and specialty shops, I can't imagine anyone buying the processed swill HF currently peddles. Honestly, outside of corporate gift programs (nothing says, "Hey, I'm not sure who you are or what is that you do, but PR insisted we acknowledge your existence with generic cardboard box of Easter grass and about 2 ounces of actual product") the median age of their customer base must be around 80 years old. Good riddance to company that let the world pass it by.

posted by SavageFred on Mar 03, 2017 at 12:02:50 pm     #   6 people liked this

I agree and for that matter, what did Hickory Farms ever do for the area that was above and beyond normal business operations and goodwill ? Did Hickory Farms ever take a position of corporate leadership in the city of Toledo? Did they REALLY try to make a difference?

That said, I'd rather they be here than not....however, Im not going to lose sleep knowing that another dinosaur has left the building. Take that overprices cheese wheel with you.

posted by BulldogBuckeye on Mar 03, 2017 at 12:28:43 pm     #  

Bulldogbuckeye-

When I was with the company, we contributed HEAVILY to local charities and volunteered a lot of our time to childhood hunger programs. We also raised a shitload of money for No Kid Hungry, which is an amazing group (tho a national one).

THAT said, in previous years (prior to ownership by Sun), the company employed hundreds of people and were considered a good, solid employer that went local first.

(also, we didn't sell cheese wheels - we sold shelf stable cheese blocks. sheesh. Come on buddy. :))

posted by endcycle on Mar 03, 2017 at 12:33:03 pm     #  

They didn't keep up with the times. I'm almost 53 and can't remember the last time any of my friends said they were craving a beef stick from Hickory Farms or one of their cheeses so I know their merchandise isn't appealing to the millennials.

They should have tried marketing their merchandise to stores such as whole foods and Trader Joe where the millennials shop at and had a lot bigger online presence. Sell cheeses people want that are available at stores like the Anderson's instead of that hard cheese log stuff.

I find it ironic they are using the excuse of no "top talent" in Toledo as their reason for moving when their main demographic they cater to is the crowd that is retired.

posted by classylady on Mar 03, 2017 at 12:40:43 pm     #  

"Shelf stable cheese blocks."

That sounds like something Col. Potter would yell.

posted by JohnnyMac on Mar 03, 2017 at 12:41:51 pm     #   3 people liked this

"Shelf stable cheese blocks".

Hell, I had that crap in my C-rations in Viet Nam. If you can find an old carton of C Rats that crap is still edible. So that explains why Hickory Farms cheese tasted so familiar and had the same effect on my intestines.

posted by Wydowmaker on Mar 03, 2017 at 01:39:40 pm     #   1 person liked this

Thanks Trump

posted by a_fan on Mar 04, 2017 at 08:16:07 am     #   1 person liked this

"Shelf stable cheese blocks" sounds like the "non-nutritive cereal varnish" Clark W. Griswold was promoting in Christmas Vacation. Is it a coincidence that he was from Chicago? I think not. There's obviously an established group of crap food producers that region.

posted by Toledostrong on Mar 04, 2017 at 09:52:44 am     #   1 person liked this

Wydowmaker posted at 12:39:40 PM on Mar 03, 2017:

"Shelf stable cheese blocks".


Hell, I had that crap in my C-rations in Viet Nam. If you can find an old carton of C Rats that crap is still edible. So that explains why Hickory Farms cheese tasted so familiar and had the same effect on my intestines.

If they relabeled it as survival cheese, preppers would pay three times the price.

posted by justread on Mar 04, 2017 at 06:59:54 pm     #   1 person liked this

The CEO might have a point -- young people have embraced old crap favorites like gas station meat jerky, macaroni and cheese, tater tots, and bizarre potato chip flavorings like BBQ ribs or PBJ. Maybe the time is ripe for the rebirth of chemical sausage sticks and plastic cheese. Stranger things have happened in the food world. Especially when big bucks are in the background.

posted by viola on Mar 05, 2017 at 10:04:32 am     #  

Young people have embraced old crap favorites like gas station meat jerky, macaroni and cheese, tater tots, and bizarre potato chip flavorings like BBQ ribs or PBJ

What?

If you mean the rite of passage of ALL HS/ College kids-some things never change. Ahead of that, the Millenials are by FAR, the most sophisticated and intelligent generation in regards to food. This stuff tastes like the 70's. It will be a fascinating spectacle watching the marketing and manufacturing plan try to endear themselves to millenials. Personally, I think they have a chance to "normcore" HF, but what do I know, I'm not in Chicago.

posted by ahmahler on Mar 05, 2017 at 12:46:16 pm     #  

ahmahler posted at 11:46:16 AM on Mar 05, 2017:
Young people have embraced old crap favorites like gas station meat jerky, macaroni and cheese, tater tots, and bizarre potato chip flavorings like BBQ ribs or PBJ

What?

If you mean the rite of passage of ALL HS/ College kids-some things never change. Ahead of that, the Millenials are by FAR, the most sophisticated and intelligent generation in regards to food. This stuff tastes like the 70's. It will be a fascinating spectacle watching the marketing and manufacturing plan try to endear themselves to millenials. Personally, I think they have a chance to "normcore" HF, but what do I know, I'm not in Chicago.

Brilliant, ahmahler.

I can picture the magazine ad in my mind. Kind of a muted brown table setting reminiscent of the original Weight Watchers cookbooks. Log of meat and block of cheese are the main focus, with some dry crackers and strawberry candies scattered about.

In a dark burnt orange shaded retro font, the tag line reads:

"Hickory Farms: We Taste Like the 70s!"

posted by dell_diva on Mar 05, 2017 at 05:37:45 pm     #  

the worst part of the 70's no less

posted by upso on Mar 05, 2017 at 08:09:48 pm     #  

HF had to go to Chicago to find upso.

posted by justread on Mar 06, 2017 at 09:08:21 am     #  

Let it go.....the article stated that Chicago was closer to its warehousing, production and distribution sites. A poor choice of words, definitely to say T-Town cannot attract top talent.

posted by Hoops on Mar 06, 2017 at 09:20:11 am     #  

They could have done us a favor and said "We're leaving because the roads suck".

posted by JoeyGee on Mar 06, 2017 at 10:08:08 am     #   2 people liked this

I once heard Hickory Farms food described as "embalmed."

posted by justread on Mar 06, 2017 at 10:42:26 am     #  

justread posted at 09:42:26 AM on Mar 06, 2017:

I once heard Hickory Farms food described as "embalmed."

That pretty well sums it up IMHO.

posted by Foodie on Mar 06, 2017 at 12:44:18 pm     #  

I used to love their summer sausage but you can find other brands that are just as good in the grocery store for less money.

I always thought their cheeses were overpriced. You can buy a lot better tasting cheese not pumped full of preservatives at the Anderson's and Zingerman's for the same price.

In the 80s/early 90s, they had sugar free licorice flavored hard candy at Christmas I used to enjoy though.

posted by jamesteroh on Mar 06, 2017 at 01:43:16 pm     #  

This thread got me thinking about Harry and David and their store at Briarfield Mall in Ann Arbor.

Similar type operation but Harry and David's food is so much better. A lot of fresh items that aren't embalmed like Hickory Farms.

posted by jamesteroh on Mar 06, 2017 at 01:46:24 pm     #  

Pepperidge Fahm remembers.

posted by justread on Mar 06, 2017 at 02:16:32 pm     #   1 person liked this

And "rock and roll never forgets"................

posted by Foodie on Mar 07, 2017 at 11:34:45 am     #   1 person liked this

To Hickory Farms CEO,

Take your crappy, drying brand and high tail it. Don't let the door hit ya...

posted by mixman on Mar 09, 2017 at 09:20:47 am     #  

^dying. Their crackers are dry enough already.

posted by mixman on Mar 09, 2017 at 09:21:30 am     #