Overall, it was a depressing year on the local business scene.
Victories, such as the opening of the Americold cold storage facility in the town of Dunkirk, were overshadowed by setbacks. Most notably, major layoffs at the nearby Wells ice cream and big changes at Athenex’s buildout hurt workers in the north county.
Among smaller businesses, a longtime Silver Creek institution closed — but a shuttered Fredonia icon is getting revived.
WELLS SCALES BACK
The company announced July 21 that it would “scale back operations … in 2023 to five production lines” at its Dunkirk plant.
Wells was acquired in early December by the Ferrero Group. Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas said he had “received assurances there will not be further reductions.”
However, those reductions were devastating. In September, through the state Labor Department, Wells announced 319 jobs would melt away by Jan. 1. Before the announcement, that plant had between 650 and 700 employees.
ATHENEX PULLS OUT
The troubled pharmaceutical company sold a lease holding interest in its new town of Dunkirk plant to ImmunityBio.
That company proceeded to lose more than $308 million through September and announced around 40 layoffs at the Dunkirk plant in October. ImmunityBio also stated the plant needs extensive renovation, which could take up to a year and a half, in order to meet its pharmaceutical manufacturing needs.
After 103 years, Valvo’s Candies and Gift Shop closed for good on Sept. 12.
Owner Elizabeth Valvo said the property would eventually get put up for sale. “I would like to thank our wonderful customers, friends and family who helped us along the way,” she said.
“I’m just so thankful for everyone who helped support us.”
She added, “My husband and I would work until two in the morning at the candy factory and sometimes we’d hear a knock on the door. People from the community would just come in and help.”
WHITE INN SOLD
Local businessman Steve St. George partnered with restauranteur Devin Jones to buy the historic building, closed since 2017, for an undisclosed amount.
The duo plans to return the structure to its original splendor as a hotel, restaurant, bar and events space. State grants, including one issued just last week, are aiding in the effort.
“We have been working behind the scenes for the better part of for years to help catalyze a positive outcome for the inn,” said Mark Geise, who heads up Chautauqua County’s business development efforts, when the sale was announced. “After several stalled attempts by other interested parties, I feel confident that Mr. St. George’s efforts will prove successful. Steve doesn’t do anything halfway.”
“I’m excited for the opportunity to give back to Fredonia,” St. George said.
NURSING HOME FINED
In March, the state Department of Health fined Dunkirk Rehabilitation and Nursing Center $10,000 for failing to perform CPR on a resident who was unresponsive, and later died.
According to the state’s citation, a licensed practical nurse who discovered the patient did not do CPR, did not activate a Code Blue for internal emergency assistance, and didn’t call 911 for help from outside the building.
The LPN instead contacted the nursing director, who was out sick. The state’s report said the facility did not properly schedule register nurses, and also didn’t designate a full time nursing director when the original one was on sick leave.
Corrective action was taken by the nursing home, including a plan to ensure registered nurse coverage at required times and designation of an interim nursing director when the regular one is out.