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Ritz Foodservice Abruptly Closes

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports that employees received an e-mail on Tuesday, January 13, announcing that Ritz would make its last deliveries the next day, Wednesday, January 14. Long-time employees quoted in the article noted that business had been dropping steadily, but said they were shocked by president and second-generation owner Ritz A. Guggiana’s decision to abruptly close. Ritz’s Web site and phone system remained operational as of Wednesday, but calls to the company went unanswered.

Ritz had been among the North Bay’s largest independent foodservice distributors, serving customers from San Diego to Reno to the Oregon border. At one point, the company had 170 employees, 40 trucks and $80¬ million in revenue, according to its Web site. It was down to five trucks Tuesday, according to one driver quoted. The work force had dwindled to fewer than 100, said Scott Vanhoy, a credit manager who had worked at Ritz for more than two years.

Ritz was hurt by high gas prices earlier this year and squeezed by restaurant chains trying to cut costs, Vanhoy said in the article. The final straw came when lenders refused to extend financing to the company.

Ritz reportedly was in talks to sell the company, but the deal fell through.

Ritz Food Service was founded in 1959 by Guggiana’s father, Ritz C. Guggiana, as a one-man Kraft cheese distributorship. Guggiana Sr. died in 1979, and his son took over the family business at the age of 28. The company operated out of a 100,000-square-foot headquarters and distribution center. At one time, it operated a warehouse in Redding, California, as well, but that warehouse has since been closed. The company continues to pay a long-term lease on the warehouse, one of several financial setbacks it has suffered in recent years.

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