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Press Conference Announces Maines Buyout of CFM

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (December 7, 2010)—Maines Paper & Food Service Inc., Conklin, N.Y., announced the company’s purchase of California Fruit Markets, or CFM Food Distributors, Inc., during a press conference with representatives from both businesses.

CFM, 580 W. Main St., was founded in 1924 and was in the third generation of family owners. CFM, formerly known as California Fruit Markets Inc., at one time had more than 2,000 customers in 19 states and Puerto Rico, according to company literature.

Maines is one of the largest food distribution companies in the country. It has nine distribution centers in 33 states, including a facility in Syracuse. Maines will operate the Watertown location and keep on many of the CFM staff, a letter to customers said.

Maines has assumed CFM's bank debt. The Conklin company has also taken over another small food distributor in the Northeast recently, Mr. Alexander said.

In November 2007, Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., Baltimore, Md., filed suit against CFM. The lawsuit, for $2.6 million, alleged the company stopped a proposed expansion project after work already had started on the lot. The company had agreed to a settlement with the contractor near the end of 2009 for a smaller amount.

“Being able to come back to our roots, utilize those resources and progress the company-progress Maine’s Paper & Food Service of Watertown-it’s going to be a win-win,” Peter J. Levos, Vice President of CFM Sales & Marketing said. “It’s going to be a major tool for our customers and our employees.”

Christopher Mellon, president and chief executive officer of Maines, said the implementation of new divisions, offered to both current and future customers, will add to CFM’s ability to offer unique services.

“Really what our goal is today is really kicking off, taking the Levos family into the next generation and leveraging off everything Jerry’s done in building this business,” Mellon said.

One change to come will be the addition of a new produce line-Maines Produce Express.

“Customers are going to be able to call in at 11 o’clock in the morning for that afternoon’s delivery,” Paul N. Levos, CFM’s vice president of purchasing and marketing, explained. “It’s just crazy business service.”

Mellon further said of Produce Express, “It’s now about a $63 million entity. What we’re going to do with the Levos family is come up here with what they established as CFM, take their broadline business and start to add all of these other divisions.”

So what exactly does this mean for current CFM employees?

“We’re in the middle of orientation with the existing staff,” Mellon said. “We’re looking, particularly in the produce area, to try and add sales.”

The Maines president said he expects between 10 and 25 additional people would be hired within six to nine months.

Even CFM’s third generation of Levos family members will be able to keep their jobs after the company’s buyout. Peter Levos will assume the role of president of Maine’s Paper & Food Service of Watertown, Jerry P. Levos, president of CFM, will be in charge of purchasing and Paul Levos will continue on with sales and marketing for the new business.

A Maines equipment and supply warehouse, which would sell items from smallwares to bulk foods and employ 30-50 employees, is also expected to open within six to eight months in the Watertown area. Mellon, who hasn’t found a location for the future warehouse, said it would be approximately 18,000 square feet.

“It’s a once stop kind of catering party-type center that’s open to the public,” he said. “No membership fees, nothing like Sam’s.”

He added, “We’re hoping to see the county step up and help us facilitate some of that success with regards to giving us the incentives to get that back up and get some bodies there.”

The Levos family seemed to agree with Mellon that a Maines buyout of CFM was a smart move for the Watertown company.

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