Russell Stover, one of the nation's largest makers of boxed chocolates, announced Tuesday it will close its plant on the Western Slope, eliminating 400 jobs in the town of Montrose.
The candy company was founded in Denver almost 100 years ago, although the headquarters moved to Kansas City shortly afterward. It was purchased in 2014 by the Swiss chocolate-maker Lindt and this move comes as the blended companies continue to streamline their operations, according to a press release announcing the closure.
"Making that decision is probably one of the hardest business decisions we've had to make. So there's a sense of loss, and we feel that," said company spokesman Robbie Vorhaus.
The Montrose plant is slated to close in the spring of 2021 and Vorhous said employees there will be given the option to transfer to the company's expanded facilities in Kansas and Texas. Those who don't transfer or retire will be offered severance packages.
Vorhaus described the decision to close the plant as "wrenching" but ultimately, "this was a business decision that was required for us to continue to grow and for us to continue to meet changing consumer needs, purchasing decisions and tastes."
The closure is likely to be a blow to the economy of rural Montrose County, which has a population of around 42,000. Around 400 people work at the plant, including part-time and seasonal positions, and it's listed as a 'primary employer' on the Montrose Economic Development Corporation's website.
In addition to the Montrose facility, Russell Stover will shutter two distribution centers, in Tennessee and Missouri, and close some of its storefronts around the country over the coming year.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled spokesman Robbie Vorhaus’ surname.