Sun Basket, the meal kit delivery service located at Rock City in Valmeyer, announced last week that it will be closing that location Aug. 7.
According to multiple employees, the company informed its workforce on Thursday.
Its closing was later confirmed by Valmeyer Village Administrator Dennis Knobloch and Joe Koppeis, developer of Rock City.
The company said it was closing the Valmeyer location to maintain profitability in an increasingly competitive industry.
“The $1 trillion food market is going through a period of tremendous disruption and consolidation,” Sun Basket CEO Adam Zbar said. “We are moving to gain greater market share by innovating within our healthy food offering and are launching new products this summer. While Sun Basket already has the best unit economics in the space, in this environment, we believe that the key to success is creating a sustainable, highly profitable growth model.”
The decision comes after Sun Basket added 200,000 square feet to its East Coast facility in New Jersey. It also has an operation in San Jose, Calif.
Sun Basket will be relocating its Valmeyer work to its other facilities. The company estimates it will still be able to serve 97 percent of the country.
That number was at 98 percent when the Rock City facility opened last May following a trial period dating back to March 2017.
Koppeis said he was sad to see the tenant go.
“I think Sun Basket’s a good company,” he said. “I think they were good to their employees. It’s unfortunate the meal kit market has slowed down a bit, but what they told me yesterday evening when I met with them was they have to eliminate one facility. And the population base is so much higher on the two coasts that their shipping cost is less to ship the boxes from those areas than from here.
“They did say they had a great workforce and their rent was less here than it was at any of their other facilities.”
Koppeis estimated Sun Basket employed about 317 people, making it one of the biggest employers in Monroe County.
“That’s the crisis,” Koppeis said. “Those people need to work. They need jobs. They were all good people. More than half of their people were from Monroe and Randolph County.”
Knobloch said the loss of jobs is also Valmeyer’s primary concern.
“There will be some financial impact on the village with loss of lease revenue on the area being used and loss of sales tax revenue on the product that was being sold,” he added. “That was revenue that we didn’t have before Sun Basket came to town, so we will be able to function without that income.”
Koppeis said Sun Basket and his company will work to relocate and retrain those individuals.
“I know that a lot of folks were upset when Sun Basket opened and they didn’t like some of the employees that were working there,” Koppeis noted. “But I think, ultimately, everyone realized it was a really good thing.”
Some of those people may work at a new business in Rock City, which Koppeis said he will pursue because that was one of his goals with Sun Basket.
“We will do our best to find someone else to create those jobs,” he pledged. “That’s one of the biggest shortages we have is jobs for the lesser skilled people.”
Rock City’s other tenants – Cargill Meat Solutions, Branding Iron Holdings and Blue Line Foodservice Distribution – may fill some of that void, as Koppeis said he plans to approach those companies about expanding.
In the meantime, he said Rock City is in no danger despite Sun Basket’s departure.