Injection molded outdoor furniture company Syroco Inc. of Baldwinsville, N.Y., has shut its doors, announcing to 154 workers June 18 that it was ceasing production after more than 100 years in business.
The company occupied about 1 million square feet in distribution and production space in the Syracuse suburb of Baldwinsville, according to officials with Onondaga County in New York.
``We obviously were surprised,'' said Sue Tormey, communications director for the Onondaga County executive. ``We kind of almost read it in the paper as everyone else did. It's really too bad, such a company with such a history.''
Vassallo Industries Inc. of Ponce, Puerto Rico, bought Syroco in 2004 from Fiskars Brands Inc. of Madison, Wis.
It was Vassallo Industries' patriarch, Chiry Vassallo, whose vision and passion were driving forces for a company being hit by the triple impact of foreign competition, dealing with mega retailers as customers and the volatility of resin prices, said one official. But Chiry Vassallo died in January. His son Rafael is Vassallo's president and vice chairman of Syroco. Syroco Chief Executive Officer Ray Carrock resigned shortly after Chiry Vassallo's death.
``In my mind, Chiry saved Syroco by purchasing when he did,'' Carrock said earlier this year.
``If he didn't purchase Syroco at that time, there was a good chance the then-owners would have closed it down,'' Carrock said. ``Vassallo has invested in excess of $10 million. They provided the energy, passion and enthusiasm to take this over.''
Syroco owns more than 1,000 housewares molds, officials had said at that time. Syroco officials told workers the assets will be liquidated, according to newspaper reports in Baldwinsville.
Rafael Vassallo did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A receptionist who answered the phone at Syroco's Corona, Calif., facility confirmed that facility ceased production June 18. A receptionist at Syroco's plant in Siloam Springs, Ark., plant referred all inquiries to the New York plant.
``There was a small group of us that had a meeting with Syroco in May, to meet Rafael for the first time,'' Don Western, economic development director with Onondaga County, said in a June 19 telephone interview.
``At the time, the theme was, `We're in a struggle, but we're favorably disposed to Syracuse,''' Western said.
As of last fall, Western and other officials were trying to have Syroco included in a county empire zone. Stipulations for the county empire zone included adding roughly 50 employees to Syroco's base of 180.
But rather than add employees, Syroco began laying off, Western said. Chiry Vassallo's powerful personality and passion for Syroco may have been necessary to maintain it in difficult times.
``There's not a substitute for it,'' Western said of a charismatic leader's enthusiasm and passion. ``It's not fair to say that Rafael can't do that. He just may not want to.''