Michigan fruit processor to close doors, auction off equipment

GRAWN, MI – After processing millions of cherries and apples over the past 78 years, Cherry Growers Inc. will close its doors and auction off its equipment at the end of this month, according to company officials and the auction house that will liquidate its assets.

Cherry Growers, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August 2017, announced it will close its doors and sell off its equipment after failing to find another processor to take over its operations.

Headquartered in Grawn near Traverse City, ownership of Cherry Growers Inc. is shared by 53 Michigan cherry and apple growers. The company, which processes cherries and applies, employed about 75 workers.

“Cherry Growers, Inc. has a long history in Northwest Michigan and includes many icons of the Michigan cherry industry,” said President and General Manager, Eric MacLeod. “I’d like to thank everyone, including the growers, suppliers and employees who made this entity everything it was capable of.”

The company “fought to overcome setbacks due to a failure to recognize in a timely manner that a change in its core business model was necessary,” according to a Sept. 1 company news release issued after the bankruptcy petition.

Their problems were “exacerbated by the 2012 crop failure and the necessary exit from processing apples after 2013,” the company said.

New Mill Capital, a national asset acquisition and disposition firm, has been hired to sell the equipment assets of Cherry Growers, Inc.

“It’s unfortunate that the company was not able to avoid permanent closure, however, it’s our hope that other producers in the region will be able to repurpose and benefit from the availability of the idled equipment”, said Eric Weiler, Principal of New Mill Capital.

The auction sale, consisting of more than 1,000 pieces of equipment used for fruit receiving, processing, packaging and plant support will be held exclusively online with bidding opening Thursday, April 12 and closing on Wednesday, April 25 and Thursday, April 26.

Featured items within the auction include complete juice production and packaging lines, raw fruit receiving, grading and washing, IQF, extraction, juice presses, a 3-effect evaporator, de-stemmers, pitters, stainless processing and storage, canning, liquid filling lines and all plant support.

The April 25 closing date will include all processing, packaging and refrigeration equipment. The April 26 closing date will include all plant support, lab, forklifts and vehicles. Additional information can be found at newmillcapital.com.

“This is a great opportunity for similar companies to immediately upgrade or increase production capacity before the 2018 processing season,” Weiler said.

Cherry Growers, Inc. is located at 6331 US Highway 31. Interested buyers are welcome to attend open equipment inspections on April 20, April 23 and April 24 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. by scheduling an appointment.

*Original article can be found at MLive