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Gentile Bros. closure comes as surprise

Gentile Bros. Co., one of the country's oldest active produce companies, which until recently was The Blue Book's oldest Trading Member, has gone out of business.

Founded in 1881, Gentile was a repacker and distributor that served retail, foodservice and processing customers throughout the Midwest.

Attempts to contact the Cincinnati-based company Oct. 11 were unsuccessful. Gentile's website was also inactive.

Jim Carr, president and chief executive officer of Blue Book Services Inc., headquartered in Carol Stream, IL, told The Produce News, "We understand from industry sources that the company is inactive. We are endeavoring to learn more about what happened, why and when. We are trying to get more information to report to the industry. We have repeatedly tried to reach the ownership, but we have been unsuccessful in doing so."

The Blue Book reported Oct. 8 that Gentile's rating had been withdrawn. On Oct. 10, the Blue Book attached a note to Gentile's listing that stated, "Reported inactive -- remains under review." The previous rating for Gentile was 150M XXX C.

"Trade information validated the rating," Carr said. "[The closure] came very quickly and suddenly. We are not sure what happened and why. We want to know more to let the industry know. So far as we know they are inactive."

Carr said Gentile was the Blue Book's oldest Trading Member when the firm was purchased by Jeff Oaks in May 2012. Gentile was a Trading Member from 1910 to 2012.

Carr said that when there is the change of ownership, Trading Member status is automatically withdrawn by The Blue Book until the new owners earn that status on their own.

On Oct. 10, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported, "A person answering the phone at the Julian Drive headquarters confirmed that Oct. 11 will be the company's last day of operation. Calls to company officials were not returned."

WKRC television in Cincinnati reported Oct. 8 that Gentile staffers were avoiding their television cameras and not commenting on an imminent closure. WKRC reported from Gentile's warehouse, "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. On Tuesday (Oct. 8), 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."

The Produce News published a story in May 2012 that Gentile was under new ownership following the sale of certain company assets to a former employee.

According to that story, "Jeff Oaks, who had been vice president of sales at Gentile Bros. Co. prior to leaving in 2004, is now owner and president of the company following his purchase of certain assets from Glenn Bryant and Ed Sabin. Bryant and Sabin remain as advisers at Gentile Bros."

The Produce News story continued, "Upon leaving Gentile Bros. in 2004, Mr. Oaks went to work at Total Quality Logistics, a leading freight brokerage firm based in Cincinnati. He was sales manager at the time of his departure from TQL."

The Cincinnati newspaper indicated that Gentile employed about a dozen full-time employees, as well contract employees.

According to its Blue Book listing, Gentile's bank is Fifth Third Bank. The Produce News was unable to glean any information regarding Gentile from the bank.

On Sept. 9, 2013, Gentile was listed by the Cincinnati Business Courier as one of 69 nominees for the newspaper's list of "2013 Best Places to Work."