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L&M acquires Griffin Holder; purchase ensures year-round onion supplies

by Christina DiMartino | January 04, 2010
The L&M Family of Companies, headquartered in Raleigh, NC, last month finalized its purchase of Griffin Holder Co., a year-round producer of yellow, mild, white, red and sweet onions based in Rocky Ford, CO, giving L&M a year-round supply of onions.

"For L&M's onion program, this acquisition means gap-free, seamless, year- round supplies," Tracy Fowler, general manager of potatoes and onions for L&M, told The Produce News in early January. "There are not many onion companies in the country that have full annual control and movement of supplies. Our onion program now fits hand in hand with our year-round potato program."

Mr. Fowler noted that buyers across the country typically purchase their onions and potatoes from the same supplier. "It's one-stop shopping that offers convenience for our customers," he said. "The acquisition has doubled our onion business and gives it year-round consistency."

Griffin Holder is a major company that has done business in a relatively quiet way. It was founded in 1917 in Texas, and relocated to Colorado in 1939. Mr. Fowler said that Justin Ensor, the sole owner of the company, operated with a staff of six people. Over the years, Griffin Holder expanded its operation to Calipatria, CA, Greeley, CO, and Columbus, NM, with the goal of becoming a year-round shipper of onions.

"L&M has been operating with Griffin Holder since last March in preparation for finalizing the purchase," said Mr. Fowler. "An acquisition of this size, which [comprises] facilities, land and more, takes a while to work out all the details and to close. Justin and his staff will continue to work with L&M in the future to ensure a seamless transition and ongoing movement."

The purchase is comprised of three onion packing and storage facilities in Colorado and California; onion production in Colorado, California and New Mexico; and the sales office in Rocky Ford.

L&M will continue to use Griffin Holder's "Sombrero" and "Carzalia Sweet" brand names. The "Carzalia Sweet" is owned by Bill and James Johnson, owners of Carzalia Valley Produce in Columbus, NM. L&M will incorporate its own well-known brand, "Nature's Delight," into the program.

Griffin Holder's staff, including transportation, sales and quality-control employees, will continue in their employment under the new purchase.

Mr. Fowler said that L&M plans to increase its acreage within the Griffin Holder's operations beginning this year. "L&M is currently moving all types of onions from Colorado and Idaho, in addition to New York, which has strong movement this time of year," he said.

Mr. Fowler joined L&M 13 years ago and was promoted to general manager of the potato and onion categories five years ago. "I'll retire here," he said. "L&M is a great company to work for. We currently have about 25 employees in sales and sales support for the potato and onion lines."

He added that Griffin Holder has many of the same high values and integrity attributes that L&M has, and that this like-mindedness has helped make the purchase a smooth and successful one.

"L&M's key strategy is to have product-movement control and expertise, which was the motivation behind this acquisition," said Mr. Fowler. "If reaching that strategy means more acquisitions and aligning ourselves as a top marketing company, that is what we will continue to do."

The L&M Family of Companies is a group of privately held companies that together make a fully integrated supplier.