NYC Company Buys Ahava Food Corp.

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dairyThe owner of food distribution plants in New York City has acquired the troubled kosher cheese operations in Ogdensburg and Lowville. Toobro LLC, owned by Menachem and Schneur Bistritzky, last week purchased the assets of Ahava Food Corp., which produces cholov Yisroel cheese and milk. Toobro has prepared and distributed kosher snacks and meals for several airlines and schools for more than three decades.  “It was an opportunity to take a good business and make it into a great business,” Schneur Bistritzky said Wednesday.  “It has had some difficult issues, financially, but we looked at it as we could save the business. It has great potential in the kosher world.”The Bistritzky brothers have focused their attention on repairing and upgrading the Ogdensburg plant. The state Department of Agriculture and Markets on Friday shut down the Ogdensburg plant for producing contaminated food that “could pose a serious danger to the public’s health, safety and welfare.”

The state agency seized 25,000 pounds of cheese after inspectors found “excessive levels” of bacteria and coliform in the products as well as “non-food-grade oil” during a Feb. 10 to 12 visit. The cheese is sold only in bulk.

The Bistritzky brothers have spent more than $100,000 in the last week upgrading the Ogdensburg plant, including fixing the roof, steam pipes and floor drains, city officials said.

“We’re working closely with the state Agriculture and Markets to get this facility back open. We want to minimize the down time,” Ogdensburg City Manager Arthur J. Sciorra said. “The brothers really want to make this a thriving business.”

No date has been set for state Department of Agriculture and Markets inspectors to revisit the plant. A new management team has been installed at the plant to correct the problems inspectors found.

“We’re updating the facility,” Schneur Bistritzky said. “Our intention from day one has been to keep the plant open.”

State officials said inspectors cited the plant for several issues, including leaking roofs in nonproduction areas, such as the laboratory and offices; shorted lights and extra condensation on equipment because of leaks, and a malfunctioning pasteurizer. Some issues were corrected, while others, such as the pasteurizer, languished.

“Toobro plans to take a good company and make it even better,” spokesman Hank Sheinkopf said. “We are going to be the big cheese of the kosher cheese business.”

The Lowville plant, which produces bottled milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream, employs about 50 people. The Ogdensburg plant had about 30 workers before the shutdown.

“Our goal and outlook is to maximize both locations to its utmost potential,” Schneur Bistritzky said. “The facilities can handle more production, along with the market.”

The city, which owns the plant and some cheese-making equipment, had planned to evict Ahava of California from its Main Street building March 10 because the company owed $90,000 in rent and $618,138 in utility payments.

The Bistritzky brothers initially expressed interest in December in acquiring the troubled facilities. They were prepared to place a bid of $3.5 million for the assets of Ahava of California through a federal bankruptcy auction, which never occurred.

The Bistritzky brothers acquired the Lowville and Ogdensburg facilities through two financial institutions, which had liens on Ahava.

Mr. Sciorra said he continues negotiating a deal for the plant, along with looking to settle outstanding bills, with the new owners. The City Council will have to approve the deal.

{Watertown Daily Times/Matzav.com Newscenter}

1 COMMENT

  1. “It was an opportunity to take a good business and make it into a great business,” Schneur Bistritzky said Wednesday.

    “Toobro plans to take a good company and make it even better,” spokesman Hank Sheinkopf said.

    “The state Department of Agriculture and Markets on Friday shut down the Ogdensburg plant for producing contaminated food that “could pose a serious danger to the public’s health, safety and welfare.”

    The state agency seized 25,000 pounds of cheese after inspectors found “excessive levels” of bacteria and coliform in the products as well as “non-food-grade oil” during a Feb. 10 to 12 visit. The cheese is sold only in bulk.”

    A good business, huh?
    ‘Nuff said.

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