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Iconic Gentile Brothers Company Closes

WOODLAWN, Ohio (Rich Jaffe) -- One of Cincinnati's oldest produce companies closes it's doors putting people out of work, and leaving others wondering what happened?

Gentile Brothers Produce has been in Cincinnati since before the turn of the century, the last century that is.

But now Local 12 has learned they've suddenly closed their doors after 132 years in business.

Local 12 News reporter Rich Jaffe is in Woodlawn at the company headquarters with a story you'll see only on Local 12.

While a handful of people have been coming and going from here during the day, the loading docks and trucks are idle.  With a few cars in the office parking area no one was talking and most of the lights are off.  After 132 years of supplying produce around the tri-state Gentile Brothers is apparently closed.

Gentile Brothers Produce opened along Cincinnati's riverfront in 1881.  They are one of the earliest large volume produce vendors in the city.  The company earned it's reputation for ripening things like tomatoes and avocado's providing them to large vendors like Kroger and U.S. Foods.

Tuesday people could be seen trying to salvage some of that produce and equipment from the Woodlawn facility as word spreads through the industry that one of the big ones has closed.

Local 12 spoke with a truck driver said he worked here, Rich Jaffe asked him when he got the word they were closing.

"The beginning of the week...I gotta go ok..."

Only a receptionist was answering the phones here and no one else was available to answer questions.

Jaffe tried to talk with a man when he came out of the office but he quickly ducked back in.

"We just heard this week, Monday... from some drivers and different people they were closing their doors. We were very surprised. They've only been open with the new ownership for a year and we didn't know why?" That was the reaction from Joe Lasita and son's Vice President Jerry Lasita.

In 2012 Gentile was purchased by Jeff Oaks, an ex-employee.  His new company took control on April 13th of last year.  Joe Lasita and Sons is a smaller old line produce company.  Four generations of Lasita's work here.  They were surprised and saddened at Gentile's closing.

Lasita says, "The small family owned businesses that built this a major part of this country, city, everything else I think everybody loses because you lose that personal touch too."

At the same time this hard working family knows it's a tough business.

Lasita told us, "It's a hands on business.  You have to be here six out of the seven days you're open.  So we're here all six days.  When customers call they can talk to us directly.  My brother and I who are owners."

"Product only lasts a few days.  You have to have it here.  Customers have to have it immediately to serve lunch that day.  You just can't skip a beat."

Some of the drivers who used to work here have already applied for jobs with Jerry and Dan Lasita.

The other really big produce business, Castellini, continues to thrive but clearly this one is history, in more ways than one.

If Gentile were to default on its debts many of the produce suppliers who deal with them would have a certain amount of protection under an interesting federal law called the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.  The law ensures that proceeds from perishable things like fruits and vegetables be held in trust for 30 days after sale.

The majority of other creditors would simply have to get in line.

VIDEO here



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