GRAWN — Cherry Growers Inc. is no more.
"We did actually announce to our employees last Friday an immediate and indefinite layoff," said president and general manager Eric MacLeod.
The company's assets will be sold to help pay creditors. Those assets include specialized fruit-processing equipment and two facilities, one in Grawn and another — most recently used as an apple storage facility — on South Center Highway in Leelanau County.
About 80 people lost their jobs.
Cherry Growers Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection five months ago. At that time, MacLeod said the company hoped to modernize equipment and upgrade operations for its 53 member-growers, who mostly farm in Leelanau, Grand Traverse and Antrim counties. That didn't happen and the company was left with little alternative but to close and liquidate all assets.
"We were not able to sustain a level of operations that would meet certain criteria of performance" required by bankruptcy proceedings, MacLeod said. "We thought it was really the only responsible thing to do."
Cherry Growers was one of the facilities that helped produce GoGo SqueeZ, a packaged applesauce made by Materne North America. MacLeod said Materne rented a building and manufacturing facilities from Cherry Growers.
"That's one of our goals — that we don't do anything to create anything of hardship for Materne," MacLeod said.
He could not supply a timeline for liquidation.
"Obviously as soon as possible. There are so many unique and complex aspects. It's going to take some time — as somebody once put it to me — to unravel the spaghetti."
Cherry Growers was created in 1939. It moved to Grawn in 1968 from a facility in Traverse City, MacLeod said.
MacLeod is uncertain of his own professional future.
"I don't know," he said. "I've done this gig for 35 years."