ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A Bergen business owner says the abrupt closure of RealEats in Geneva is having a ripple effect on the local economy.
“I think it’s important for people to realize that this affects many many layers of the Finger Lakes region here,” said Tom Riggio, co-owner of Craft Cannery, which produced sauces for RealEats.
RealEats, the 2019 Grow-NY competition winner, closed in early March, laying off all its employees. A former employee told News 8 she was not notified until the day operations ceased.
“It was a really strong business for us,” Riggio said. “We had been doing business with them for about a year. Up until the day before, they were placing orders with us, the day before the announcement of them closing.”
Riggio says the Craft Cannery is now stuck with ingredients and packaging materials that had been purchased exclusively for RealEats products. He says he also has finished RealEats products that hadn’t been shipped yet.
“They obviously were into us for a decent amount of money as far as what we had produced already and shipped to them in addition to the raw materials so it was a quite a shock,” he said. “For a small business when you have a customer you were expecting to get paid on… then all of the sudden you see this account receivable you have is not going to come to fruition and now you have to balance and do different things to be able to continue the business so you don’t wind up in a situation like RealEats.”
An investor, meanwhile, is suing RealEats founder and CEO Dan Wise along with CFO Rebecca Holderread, accusing the pair of presenting an “exceedingly rosy” picture to mislead investors about the company’s finances.
In court documents, Indiana company Real Bridge LLC claims Wise and Holderread told investors in December 2022 that their funding would be used to grow the burgeoning business, when instead it was used to pay a lender. Real Bridge also claims RealEats did not mention during the meeting that the company “was in financial distress or on the brink of closure.”
According to court documents, Real Bridge sent $450,000 to RealEats on December 20, 2022. They claim RealEats sent updates to investors “paint[ing] a glowing picture” of the company’s financial position as recently as January.
Real Bridge is suing for monetary damages. It’s the second lawsuit to emerge from the closure, following a former employee’s complaint that the business failed to give advance notice. In New York State, Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notices — or WARN notices— must be filed weeks before the closure of any business with more than 50 employees.
New York State Assemblyman Jeff Gallahan has called on the New York State Department of Labor and New York State Attorney General’s Office to investigate the sudden closure.