Carolina Nurseries has told its 335 employees that the sprawling Berkeley County [South Carolina] wholesale plant facility will close unless it can secure new funding to repay a bank loan, according to a story in the Charleston Post & Courier.
"We issued a WARN Act to our employees, giving them 60-day notice of possible unemployment," company president J. Guy said on April 23. "One of our lenders is requesting to be paid off. We have been actively looking for new monies."
Contacted by GIE Media's Horticulture Group, Carolina Nurseries' director of marketing communications, Tom Kegley, said the company is looking at options to avoid having to close the business, which dates to 1911. "We're still fighting, and I am hopeful this can come to a good resolution for us," he said.
Though spring sales have been good, Guy said a drastic slump in sales last year during the steep recession hurt the 686-acre facility on the edge of Moncks Corner along U.S. Highway 52.
"This is our lives. We don't want it to happen," he said. "We are doing everything in our power for it not to happen. We have dealt with Hugo and snow storms and everything else. We can deal with a banking disaster."
Although there is a targeted closure date of June 21, Guy hopes no one will have to be terminated.
"We are going to get this thing fixed," he said.
Guy is confident he will find the money to survive, despite the bank's threat to auction off the property the last week of June and a note given to employees Friday that said the nursery will cease operations June 21. The notice to employees was in compliance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.
Guy declined to discuss the amount of the loan involved, but he said if new funding is found, some employees may be retained or recalled to work, but he cautioned that those laid off should not count on being recalled and urged them to seek other jobs.
Layoffs could come in stages before June, depending on the need to wrap up work at the nursery, and seniority may be taken into consideration, the note said. But the company president said he is not anticipating having to make such a move.
"We are going to be here forever," a confident Guy said.
And if they aren't?
"We will cross that bridge when we get to it," Guy said. "Right now, we are going to work on getting our lender taken care of."