Imler's Poultry of Duncansville purchased the distribution center and about 40 acres of Lee Food Service Inc. property Thursday during a sale in federal bankruptcy court in Johnstown.
Imler's - which outbid two large distribution companies for the property - bid $3.4 million, said Robert S. Donaldson, Lee Food Service president and chief executive officer.
"I was hoping one of the distributors would acquire it but am happy that a local company bought it," Donaldson said. "It would have been more natural for a distributor."
The sale was approved by Judge Bernard Markovitz, and the sale must close within 60 days, Donaldson said.
Imler's officials will use the property to expand their business.
"Our growth has been hindered by a lack of additional facilities. We are operating out of three facilities. Our business has been good, and we are continuing to grow. We were at a point where we needed a place to expand," said Fred Imler II, partner in the business with his father, Fred Sr., and son Bryan. "We will use it for storage and then decide what we are going to do with it. This will help us retain jobs, and we hope we will be able to add some jobs at some point."
In early November, Donaldson announced the closing of Lee Food Service Inc., which was created after the 2006 bankruptcy of W.S. Lee & Sons Inc. The company employed 90 people at the time.
W.S. Lee's Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan was approved in April 2007 with Lee Food Service opening for business in May 2007. The new company was on the path to outperform its five-year plan, Donaldson said, but it became a victim of the economic downturn in September 2008 when sales flattened and started to decline slightly.
The company is continuing to liquidate its inventory and will do so within the next 60 days, Donaldson said.
Imler's Poultry 'not just chickens anymore' Company distributes 3,000 different products to about 3,500 customers By Walt Frank wfrank@Duncansvillemirror.com Imler's Poultry is more than just poultry.
"Our slogan is 'Imler's Poultry - we are not just chickens anymore,'" said Fred Imler II, a partner in the business with his father, Fred N.
Imler Sr., and son Bryan Imler.
However, poultry continues to make up about 70 to 75 percent of the company's business as chicken wings are more popular than ever. On average, Imler's sells about 200,000 pounds of chicken wings a week.
During Super Bowl week alone, Bryan Imler said the business sold 6,000 40-pound cases."The wing is the most important and expensive part of the chicken. We get more requests for wings," Fred Imler II said. "At one time, boneless breasts cost three times [as much as] wings. Now wings are about twice the price of boneless breasts."
Imler's Poultry began in 1903 in the Rainsburg area of Bedford County when Leff Imler (Fred N. Imler Sr.'s great-great-uncle) bought various products from farmers - including chickens and eggs - and brought them to Duncansville by horse and wagon to sell.
In 1918, Charles Imler, Fred N. Imler Sr.'s grandfather, bought the business and moved it to 58th Street in Duncansville, where it remained until 1984.
Imler's Poultry also operated a turkey farm from 1948-79 on the site of what is now Sugar Run Plaza. Imler's stopped raising turkeys in 1979 because of the competition from large conglomerates that owned feed mills, hatcheries and processing plants."It was in our best interest to buy them already processed," Fred N.
Imler Sr. said.
In the early 1980s when Fred N. Imler Sr. and Fred Imler II became partners in the business, the company, which had moved to 3421 Beale Ave., decided to focus on distribution. They added pre-packaged deli salads, fresh pork and beef, deli meats and seafood to its product line. The 55,000-square-foot Beale Avenue facility, comprised primarily of storage space, usually contains an inventory of 1.5 to 2 million pounds of products. The average weekly shipment is 2 million to 2.5 million pounds of products, Fred Imler II said.
Imler's products are not found in the larger grocery stores in the Duncansville area. The company said it is not economically feasible because of the amount of advertising dollars and other requirements required to do so. However, Imler's distributes products to about a dozen smaller local grocery stores and meat markets as well as independent restaurants and bars, said Fred Imler II. "We try to take care of all of the small customers, restaurants and small retail outlets that helped to build us to where we are today," said Fred N. Imler Sr.
Imler's Poultry has changed its business philosophy over the years.
Today the company is more diversified in both its product line and customer base."At one time, KFC was 35 percent of our business. We distributed to 250 KFC locations. We still deliver to about 70 KFCs within western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio," Fred N. Imler Sr. said. "Today there is no one customer that is more than 2 percent of our business. We worked hard not to rely on one customer." "In the beginning, to experience growth, we needed to get into the large chains. We needed to do that to put us on the map," said Fred Imler II.
Today, Imler's poultry distributes about 3,000 different products to about 3,500 customers in a 200-mile radius of Duncansville. To get the products delivered, the company started its own trucking company - Imler's Poultry Transportation - in the 1980s because the independent trucks they were using before often ran late. In 2009, Imler's fleet of 55 trucks drove more than 5 million miles."They are a rolling billboard by themselves. We clean them inside and outside every day when they come back here," said Fred N. Imler Sr. "We want to project that clean image while hauling food."
The company employs about 160 people who play a key role in the company's success.
"Our employees are a great part of our success. If we didn't have our employees, we couldn't do what we are doing," said Fred Imler II. "We also have some great business partners."
Imler's Poultry also runs an outlet store at 3421 Beale Ave. where customers can choose from poultry and other meat products, a large selection of deli meats and cheeses, fresh produce and other locally packed foods. Despite tough economic times, Imler's is growing. Fred N.
Imler Sr. said the business had a 5 percent growth in sales in 2009, and the trucking company had a 40 percent growth last year. That is expected to continue as Imler's Poultry recently purchased the distribution center and about 40 acres of land from Lee Food Service Inc. during a sale in federal bankruptcy court. In 2009 Imler's operated out of three different warehouses. Its general offices are in the former Fleming Foods building on Seventh Avenue. The company is expected to move its general offices to the Lee site in May. "With the purchase of the Lee property, we will continue to operate out of Beale Avenue, but it gives us a chance to grow and expand at that facility," Fred N. Imler Sr. said. "Some day we all could be home under one roof, but not in the near future."
The Imlers are proud that their business is now in its sixth generation with Bryan. "It is a great feeling to have the sixth generation involved in the day-to-day business," said Fred Imler II. "It is great to come to work every day with my father and son.
Imler's Poultry is the 18th recipient of the Alexander A. Notopoulos Award.
The award is presented to the business which has had a presence in Blair County for more than 107 years. It was given to the company during the Duncansville Blair County Development Corp.'s annual breakfast meeting at the Jaffa Shrine Center.
Company officials said they were honored to receive the award.
"As you look at the list and the other companies that have won the award, it is really an honor," said Bryan Imler, a partner in the business with his father, Fred Imler II, and grandfather Fred N. Imler Sr.
"It is a real privilege to have our name put on the list with all of those other people. It is a tribute to our employees and their hard work," Fred Imler II said. "We have a great company doing business in a great community. It is great to call Duncansville home."
Imler's Poultry was established in Duncansville in 1903, expanding from offering few items in the beginning to thousands of items today.
The company supplies both retail and food service companies throughout the eastern United States, offering 1,200 different cuts of poultry and more than 2,500 products.
The Notopoulos Award was created by Duncansville Enterprises, now ABCD, as a tribute to Notopoulos, an Duncansville attorney, for his many years of dedicated service to Duncansville Enterprises and the Duncansville-Blair County area.
The award is presented to companies that have a substantial business history, expanded facilities, growing employment levels, provide a family-sustaining income and demonstrate a sense of community.
Imler's is currently operating in Duncansville and was recently the successful bidder on the former W.S. Lee property in Allegheny Township. The company hopes to consolidate into the W.S. Lee facility.
Employment levels at Imler's Poultry have steadily increased over the years and the company now has 150 employees in Blair County.
ABCD also presented the Richard L. McMaster Award to Roger Oswald of Williamsburg, who retired in June 2008 after a 38-year career with Hollidaysburg Trust Co. and then Omega Bank - the past 24 years as agriculture loan officer.
The award was created in 2005 as a special tribute to McMaster for his many years of dedicated service to ABCD and its predecessor and the Blair County Industrial Development Authority.
The Economic Development Partnership Award was presented to the Alleghenies Chapter of SCORE.
Special recognition awards were given to General Cable for being recognized by IndustryWeek magazine as one of the 10 best manufacturing plants in North America and to Sister Mary Ann Dillon, who is retiring as president of Mount Aloysius College.