His brother was on the phone.
There was a fire at the
The refrigerated warehouse held all of
It took days for the fire to come under control. Solar panels on the roof posed a hazard to firefighters, and the smell of charred meat lingered, annoying neighbors.
"In many ways, I can look back, and maybe it's just my optimistic nature," he said, "but even though it was tremendously stressful, I think the fire had more positive effects on our business than negative."
Really? How so?
We lost all our inventory. We had nothing to sell. It galvanized the company. Monday was a holiday, but we had 80 percent of our people come to work on that holiday and we started producing here in
We produced more product in the next two to three weeks than we ever thought we could cook, package, and ship. It was incredible. Everybody stepped up.
Sounds as if it made you appreciate your workforce.
It sure did. And our customers were also very understanding. We could prepare and cook our turkey breasts and hams and hot dogs. But we had, actually, no place to store. We had to find cold-storage facilities. The fact that our customers would take full pallets of every product made life much easier for us.
After the fire,
I don't want to knock the
Then what happened?
We said there's only one way we would consider building in
So the city arranged a land swap to get you space next door, the state gave you grants and loans. Any other issues?
The postfire litigation has been stressful because there's an awful lot of our people [involved]. I was deposed. Our engineers and my brother, because he was very much involved in the business, have been through many depositions. So, it takes a lot of time. We were insured. So, it's not like we're going to lose our business. It's all the insurance companies fighting each other to try to spread the risk out.
Can you find workers?
That's probably the biggest challenge we have at the moment.
The generation that is coming into the workforce is different from the generation leaving the workforce. Baby boomers grew up working hard, working in factories, and were used to it and were not afraid of it.
Aren't you being an old fogy?
I can tell you our turnover is much, much higher than I can ever remember.
So retention is also a problem?
The majority of people who leave here leave because it is too cold or too wet.
Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.
Family: Wife, Nina; children, Lauren, 30, Michael, 24.
Diplomas: Ursinus, economics, business.
Favorite product: Scrapple, with eggs.
First job at the plant: Separating hot dogs by twisting them in their casings.
On his hot dog: Mustard, onions, hold the ketchup.
For fun: Kayaking.
Also at work: Daughter of founder
What: Maker, seller of deli meats, cheeses.
Where: Based in
Revenues: More than
Employees: 1,300 nationwide, 650 here.
History: Founded in 1939 in
Top sellers: Any turkey-breast product.
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