Beyer Farms has long boasted a reputation as the largest and most trusted dairy distributor in the tri-state area, but it seems the company’s reign on top has come to an end.
After more than 70 years in business, the Jamaica company’s owners, Henry and Michael Beyer, declared bankruptcy and closed their doors permanently on Tuesday, December 11.
“You’re kind of like in shock, it’s kind of surreal,” said Ron Luthy, a 27-year employee. Luthy was one of 250 Beyer employees who lost their jobs. “You put in over 20 years and all of a sudden it’s gone. It’s rough.”
Luthy worked as a “route man” for 25 years, driving trucks around the region, delivering dairy products to stores, and for the past two years working in the main Jamaica warehouse. Beyer Farms specialized in distributing to national drug chains, supermarkets, food service accounts, office buildings, restaurants and convenience stores.
“The word was out for a couple of days that there could be trouble,” he said of the days leading up to the closing, “but all signs were leaning towards that we would be alright.”
Beyer Farms had a longstanding deal with Dean Foods, one of the nation’s leading food and beverage companies, which owns the Tuscan Dairy brand. Under the deal, Beyer Farms was allowed to distribute Tuscan products, so long as they continued to pay Dean Foods for the product.
However, according to Luthy, Beyer Farms did not hold up their end of the deal, and racked up a debt to Dean Foods that has allegedly reached millions of dollars.
Representatives from Beyer Farms said that throughout the recent months, they engaged in “good faith discussions to resolve the business dispute and negotiate a payment plan to bring outstanding past due amounts current,” but Dean Foods instead “terminated the supply agreement in hopes of gaining leverage.”
“We tried to negotiate a reasonable settlement while at the same time continue to honor the terms of the supply agreement and provide Tuscan milk products to our customers. Unfortunately, Dean Foods no longer felt that providing our customers with their products during these negotiations was as important as we viewed it,” said Beyer.
On the day of the closing, employees received a notice from the Beyers, citing a “period of extraordinary difficulty,” and problems that were not “reasonably foreseen,” and because of that, the organization was forced to shut down. It also said that Dean Foods gave no notice of them breaking their deal.
“It was up and out of nowhere,” said Luthy. “We thought a deal would be struck, we heard that things were optimistic.”
Luthy said that when things started to go south with Dean Foods, the Beyers then attempted to broker a deal with Elmhurst Dairy, but to no avail.
“On my way to work on Tuesday, I got a call that said, ‘It’s all over,’” he said.
Luthy, now 51, started at Beyer Farms when he was just 23 years old.
“How could you not be upset?” he said about the closing. “It’s a shame.”
Luthy said that he will be OK financially, though his wife’s salary will decrease now that he will need medical benefits.
As for other workers, many are seeking employment at other milk companies, and others are looking for jobs within their local union 584.
Dean Foods did not return calls or emails for comment.