MADISON, Wis. - For months, workers at the Sara Lee bakery on Madison’s east side watched as product slowly transferred out, but it was Tuesday when the workers’ suspicions became fact: The bakery, their workplace for in some cases 40 years, will close.
The bakery’s parent company, Bimbo Bakeries USA, made the announcement to staff Tuesday. In a news release the company said it would shift production to other facilities in the region. The company plans to shut down the bakery completely by Jan. 2, 2019.
Workers with the company told News 3 the company told them not to talk with media, so sources spoke on the condition of anonymity.
One worker said this closure is going to affect a lot of people’s lives, many of which the worker considers family.
“It’s sad,” the worker said. “They take from one bakery and take it to another. To me it’s not right.”
The worker said the bakery is “an icon” in Madison, and most people who work there have been there for nearly 40 years.
The Madison bakery produces bread and buns. This closure will affect its 159 employees, according to the notice given to the city Tuesday. A spokesperson for the company told News 3 a few employees will stay on and transition to different roles within the company.
“Making the decision to close a facility is never an easy one,” David Tormena, vice president of Region Operations for Bimbo Bakeries USA, said in the release. “After careful analysis and consideration, we determined moving production to other bakeries in our system is a more efficient and cost-effective option.”
Tormena said consumers and customers will not see a change in availability or quality of products because of the change.
Mayor Paul Soglin said Madison’s low unemployment rate should make things easier for the bakery’s workers to find new employment. The city is offering services to the company and its workers to help them. He said anyone who needs help should contact Ruth Rohlich in his office.
The mayor said as more companies look to consolidate, these closings will continue.
“It’s traumatic, there’s no question about that,” Soglin said. “As we witnessed with the closing of Oscar Mayer and others, it's not just the fear that may set in, in terms of how can I support my family, but in businesses like this where there's long-term relations, some people have probably been working there together for 20, 25 years,” and that can’t be replaced.
He said even if given the option, he wouldn’t have tried to incentivize the company to stay through tax cuts, saying he didn’t want to get involved in “outrageous tax incentive packages that never get repaid.”
“When it’s all said and done, that talented trained workforce stays here in Madison, even if the company leaves,” Soglin said.
Originally News 3 reported the Sara Lee bakery closure would have an impact on local food pantry donations, but Bimbo reached out to Second Harvest Food Bank to clarify that their distribution center in Madison will not be closing, so there will only be minimal impact to the food bank.
"Given this new information, any impact on our ability to source baked product from Bimbo from the closure of the bakery should be minimal to Second Harvest," Kristopher Tazelaar, communications manager for Second Harvest, said in an email.
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