NEW RIEGEL - The former Farmland Foods building in New Riegel isn't going back into use anytime soon. A purchase agreement between owner Smithfield Foods and The American Sweet Bean Co. didn't work out.
"We reached an impasse with Smithfield," Charles Fry, founder and CEO of the Old Fort-based company, said Wednesday.
The American Sweet Bean Co., an agribusiness that produces edamame, had planned to reopen the former Farmland Foods building in August as a processing plant for its products.
"We signed a purchase agreement that gave us 30 days to go in and investigate the building," Fry said. "The more we looked, but more (problems) we came up with. We couldn't seem to get to the bottom of the barrel on the problems."
Fry said he requested an extension of the purchase agreement to continue exploring the building before finalizing the sale.
"They came back and they said either do it or don't," he said. "That's their right. We said, 'If we have to make a decision today, the decision is no.' We can't buy what we don't know and don't understand."
"Our business continues to grow, so we're going to have to do something. We just don't know what yet."
The American Sweet Bean Co.
Fry said he was surprised by Smithfield's action.
"They didn't do anything wrong," he said. "We little guys and those big guys don't understand each other."
He said he was looking forward to opening the plant.
"The community was great," Fry said. "Everybody in the county was supportive and the folks in New Riegel were fantastic to work with."
New Riegel Mayor Larry Bouillon expressed disappointment in the outcome, but hopes it turns out for the best.
"I hated to see what the town lost," Bouillon said. "I thought we were getting a very fine business in our town. I think we could have worked with the man. We had open arms for him to come and it just didn't happen."
Bouillon said the town was looking forward to potential income taxes and more funding for the sewer system. And now the building will continue to deteriorate.
"The building is going to sit empty now," he said. "They (Smithfield) aren't going to put any money in it."
But he said he understands Fry's decision.
"I'm glad it ended like it did and he didn't find further problems in the future that he couldn't afford to fix," he said.
Fry said Sweet Bean employees now are scrambling to make ready the processing equipment they used during last year's harvest because the edamame harvest starts in two or three weeks.
"We got beans coming out the field and we're getting the former system up and running," he said.
Fry said he plans to return to making plans after this season's harvest is over.
"Our business continues to grow, so we're going to have to do something," he said. "We just don't know what yet. Part of being an entrepreneur is being flexible. Things happen for a reason."
The American Sweet Bean Co. grows and processes edamame (pronounced ed-uh-MOM-ay), a vegetable snack food. Founded in 2005, the American Sweet Bean Co. produces domestically-grown edamame.