One of Durango’s oldest homegrown companies has announced it will be leaving for Texas and laying off nearly 75 percent of its employees.
Zuke’s Pet Nutrition announced Thursday it will join with Texas-based Merrick Pet Care. As a result, 24 of the company’s 36 employees will be laid off – 16 of whom are located in Durango.
“Anytime we have to make tough decisions that affect our people, our goal is to do it with considerable thought and foresight, in a compassionate and respectful way,” Brent Gleckler, general manager for Zuke’s, said in a prepared statement. “These actions are necessary to fully realize the benefits of these two organizations coming together.”
Of Zuke’s 12 remaining employees, some will remain in Durango, while others are expected to relocate, Merrick Pet Care spokesman Pete Brace said.
Zuke’s will move from its longtime headquarters at 2243 Main Ave. in Durango to consolidate its operations with Merrick Pet Care in northwestern Texas.
“Zuke’s will continue to have a presence in Durango, as we evolve our office into a retail innovation hub,” Brace said in an email. “The plan is still in development.”
Zuke’s, a pet-product company, was founded in 1995 in Durango, and was lauded as a local business success story that provided employment and brought in revenue from outside the area.
Since, Zuke’s has stocked its products in more than 7,000 pet-product stores in the U.S. and Canada, including Petco, PetSmart and Whole Food Markets, as well as local stores such as Pet Haus.
Hoping to gain a “worldwide platform,” Zuke’s founder Patrick Meiering sold the company to Nestlé Purina in 2014, vowing to keep its headquarters in Durango and retain its employees.
In Thursday’s announcement, Gleckler said Zuke’s plans to join Merrick Pet Care, a natural and organic pet-food company, “to build one organization to better serve pet specialty and to realize Zuke’s growth potential.”
“As with any business change, we strategically assessed capability, capacity, performance and the demands of our business now and in the near future to determine what puts our business in the strongest position going forward,” Gleckler said in the prepared statement.
Gleckler added that employees who lost their jobs are receiving outplacement support services, severance benefits and benefit continuation.
Roger Zalneraitis, executive director of La Plata County Economic Development Alliance, said Thursday: “Whenever mergers and acquisitions are examined, there’s really not a lot of discussion about the impacts they have on rural communities and small towns, and by and large, it’s negative, and that’s important. Sixteen jobs in an urban environment are not that important. In a small town, they are important.”
Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, added: “Whenever large companies purchase smaller companies, it’s all about the economics, and they are going to evaluate whether it makes sense or not to consolidate.”
This is the second major business recently to announce it will be leaving Durango.
Earlier this month, Freenotes Harmony Park said it will cease manufacturing its large outdoor equipment in Durango and move operations to Georgia. As a result, the company said many of its 14 employees had the option to move.
firstname.lastname@example.org Herald Staff Writer Patrick Armijo contributed to this report.