For the second time in little more than a month, one of the city's shoreside seafood processing companies said it is closing operations and sending a locally-based workforce to the unemployment line.
"This is to inform you that Whole Foods Market's North Atlantic Region will be permanently closing its entire Pigeon Cove Seafood facility located at 15 Parker St., Gloucester, MA 01930 effective Aug. 15, 2019," stated Whole Foods' letter to Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken. "The closing will impact approximately 59 employees."
The Pigeon Cove plant, which has operated at the Everett R. Jodrey State Fish Pier for more than 20 years, cleans, cuts, packs and ships seafood for Whole Foods stores. It no longer handles local seafood.
The upscale grocery store chain, now owned by Amazon, did not immediately respond to requests from the city for expanded details, particularly the reason for closing the Gloucester operation, according to Romeo Theken.
David Graham, listed as the general manager of the Gloucester operation, declined all comment Monday morning, referring questions to an email address at Whole Foods Market.
The company replied with a statement about "evolving" its supply chain that didn't specifically address the Gloucester closure.
Whole Foods said it has found a "local distributor who will meet our high sourcing standards." Whole Foods did not identify the distributor. The statement also said Whole Foods is "making every effort" to place affected employees in other positions within the company or with other local employers.
In the June 14 letter to the mayor, Whole Foods said it would "continue to provide full pay to the affected team members through the effective facility closing date to the extent necessary to meet our WARN Notice obligations."
The WARN Notice refers to the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification law that 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 of employment, according to the Department of Labor.
Massachusetts has passed its own similar workplace law.
"They're not doing anybody any favors," an irked Romeo Theken said Monday morning. "This still doesn't justify what Whole Foods is doing."
Romeo Theken said her administration reached out to Whole Foods immediately after receiving the letter on Friday afternoon. She said it also initiated another campaign of engaging displaced workers, as it did when National Fish & Seafood announced May 10 that it was closing its East Gloucester facilities and putting about 180 workers out of work.
The National Fish story, however, had a happy ending when an investment group — NSD Seafood — bought the National Fish assets for about $3 million, refired processing operations at the 159 E. Main St. facility as Atlantic Fish & Seafood and rehired many of the workers displaced by the initial closing.
Romeo Theken said Whole Foods' lease at 15 Parker St. — which is owned by a Montagnino family trust controlled by James Montagnino — is not set to lapse until November 2020.
The mayor said the initial letter from Whole Foods was dated "June 14, 2018." As part of its efforts to reach Whole Foods for an explanation, the city called the company and asked about the date on the letter.
"We didn't know if it was a letter that went out by mistake or what, so we asked them to get in touch with us to get a better idea of what's going on," Romeo Theken said.
A while later, another letter showed up. This one, however, had a line through the "8" at the end of the date. A "9" was penciled in its place. Beyond that, it was identical to its predecessor.
"It's like they were crossing out our city, like we don't matter," Romeo Theken said. "They couldn't even be bothered to generate a new letter."
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.