Whole Foods, city to discuss plant closure

Joseph Prezioso photoWhole Foods trucks are loaded Monday at the Pigeon Cove Seafood processing plant in Gloucester. Whole Foods announced it will close the plant in August.

GLOUCESTER — Executives from Whole Foods have agreed to travel to the city within the next week to meet with local officials about the company’s plan to close its Pigeon Cove Seafood operations on Parker Street on Aug. 15.

Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken said Whole Foods finally responded Tuesday to several communications from the city about the announced closing. Romeo Theken said the meeting with representatives from the company’s North Atlantic regional office in Marlborough could occur as soon as Friday and probably no later than Monday.

“We’re still working through the details as to when they’re going to come up and talk to us,” Romeo Theken said. “We want to talk with them about what they’re going to do to try to get their employees other jobs, but we also want to speak with them about the reasons for closing it and their plans for the space at 15 Parker St.”

The mayor said the company’s rental lease at the Parker Street facility — which is owned by a Montagnino family trust controlled by James Montagnino — is not set to lapse until November 2020.

“We want to find out if they plan to sublet that space or exactly what they plan to do,” Romeo Theken said.

On Friday, Whole Foods sent a letter to the mayor revealing the upscale grocery chain’s decision to shutter the Pigeon Cove Seafood facility that has operated at the Everett R. Jodrey State Fish Pier for more than 20 years. The letter said the move will affect about 59 employees.

The letter, however, did not address the specific reasons for closing the Gloucester operation that cleans, cuts, packs and ships seafood to Whole Foods stores.

In a later statement, Whole Foods referred to the company’s “evolving” supply chain and said it had found a “local distributor who will meet our high sourcing standards.”

Whole Foods did not identify the distributor, nor did it respond to followup emails and phone calls from the Times requesting additional information.

In its statement, the company said it is committed to helping workers displaced by the closing, either with positions within the company or working to place them with other local employers.

“We’ll see what they have to offer,” Romeo Theken said.

In its letter to the mayor, Whole Foods said it will “continue to provide full pay to the affected team members through the effective closing date to the extent necessary” to meet the statutory obligations of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification laws.

Those laws require companies to provide at least 60 calendar days notice of a plant closing and mass layoffs affecting 50 or more employees at a single site, according to the federal Labor Department.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.