WALLA WALLA — A local produce packing and shipping company in existence for almost 100 years is calling it quits.
Walla Walla Gardener’s Association closed its doors today, said Mark Jones, a financial and business advisor to the company. Located at 205 N. 11th Ave., it sold and shipped Walla Walla Sweet Onions under the Gloria label and fresh asparagus.
The company has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and the court will decide how to dispose of its physical assets.
“The board felt that Chapter 7 was the most effective way to dissolve the business,” Jones said.
Paul Castoldi, company president, said the association employed close to 15 full-time employees. That number went up to 60-70 people during seasonal harvest months from April through October.
Jones and Castoldi said that over the past few years the company has faced difficult financial times due to a declining grower base and poor pricing for onions. Asparagus had also been a large part of its business in previous years, but now much of that crop is produced in other areas of the United States as well as abroad.
The company was founded in 1916 as a cooperative for local farmers to pack and ship their produce, Castoldi said.
“It is with great sadness that the board announces our closing,” he said in a release today. “Gardeners have been an important part of our community for years and a central part of many farmers’ lives.
Castoldi said that several of the growers’ families have been involved with the company for generations.
“We are especially thankful for the many dedicated employees who have worked with us over the years,” he said.