WHITEWATER (AP) - The owner of the Hawthorn Mellody plant and the plant's laid-off workers say financial problems dating back to the 1980s forced the company to close their dairy operations.
Hawthorn President Hilmon Sorey Jr. said only a skeleton crew from the original workforce of 179 were kept on past Monday.
The dairy had a distribution center in Burlington.
"This is a very sad story for me personally, as a new owner and investor, and all these workers," Sorey said. "The irony is that we are fully prepared and producing a high-quality product. We replaced parts and pumps and upgraded the facility."
"I thought he (Sorey) could pull it out," said lab technician Allen Quast, 55, a Whitewater resident who has worked for the company 34 years. "But he inherited more debt than he thought."
The plant closing was not a total surprise to workers, said Ken Lindl, 56, a Fort Atkinson man who has worked there for 20 years.
"We suspected last year, when everything started to go downhill," he said. Hawthorn Mellody moved its headquarters to the Whitewater plant last year.
In addition to a small crew at the Whitewater plant, the company plans to keep operating an orange juice processing plant in Elgin, Ill, and the W&K Distributing Co. in Joliet, Sorey said.