“Well, we’ll have to talk to the city first,” Buehner said Tuesday, Jan. 22. “We’d like to fix it up and make it a nice gateway to town.”
The shuttered vegetable processing company sold its assets during a two-day auction that started Tuesday. The company ceased operations in June.
Bids flew at a dizzying pace at Patterson Vegetable Co.’s former headquarters as nearly 75 people from across North America snapped up processing equipment, freezers, packaging equipment and office supplies.
Everything was on the block — all of the former vegetable processing company’s processing and freezing equipment, as well as the main plant building at 100 E. Las Palmas Ave. and the office building across the street.
Giant screens displayed the equipment up for auction, and auctioneers filled the air with prices as the bidders made their best offers for each lot of equipment.
One bidder, Marion Swink, who said he runs a similar frozen vegetable processing plant in Effingham, S.C., was eyeing the bigger machinery.
“They’ve got some good equipment here,” he said. “We package string beans, spinach, greens and squash. I’d like to pack up some of this equipment and head back east.”
Ron McNiel, of Stockton, was not finding many bargains for his used industrial equipment company, Food Machinery International. He said he had sold some of the same pieces to Patterson Vegetable Co. when it was in business.
“The equipment is going for a lot of money,” he said. “This is definitely top of the market right now. Some of it is going for more.”
McNiel said the bidding was high because many processors were bidding directly, rather than wholesalers who try to buy at a discount.
Randy Sihota of Canadian Farms, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, bought a hydro-cooler to keep vegetables chilled after harvest at what he thought was a reasonable price.
“The prices are market value,” he said.
Julio Holguin of Los Angeles-based Food Processors said buying at auction is better than going through dealers, for either used or new items.
“These prices are great; this is where you find the deals,” he said.
As for the purchase of the building itself, Buehner refused to disclose his partners’ names without their permission. But he said his brother Ken Buehner, his partner in Westside Property Management, was not involved in the purchase.
Meanwhile, Traina Pacific is busy working on buildings purchased in November from Patterson Vegetable Co. on the east side of the 300 block of First Street, south of East Las Palmas Avenue.
Patterson-based Traina Dried Fruits and Modesto-based Sierra Pacific Refrigerated Services formed the company in November. Sierra Pacific already had adjoining facilities further down the block.
Patterson Vegetable Co. ceased operations June 24 after managers and Teamsters Local 948 members could not come to terms regarding cuts to employee pay and benefits totaling nearly $10 million over a three-year span.
The frozen vegetable processing company’s facility, which was run by Patterson Frozen Foods until 2007, had run continuously for 66 years.
Citing unsustainable health and retirement costs, the company repeatedly pleaded with employees to vote for concession packages that amounted to millions in wage and benefit cuts. Union employees repeatedly voted against the cuts, protesting their severity.
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