Parks Sausage plant sold

Dietz & Watson gets facility, not famed name

February 03, 1999|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

Philadelphia-based Dietz & Watson Inc. closed its deal yesterday to buy the furloughed Parks Sausage Co. plant in Park Heights, Parks President Lydell Mitchell confirmed.

Dietz & Watson, which makes high-quality delicatessen meats, wanted the 133,000-square-foot factory to help its growing business and to be close to Baltimore-Washington customers, such as the Giant Food Inc. and Super Fresh Stores grocery chains. Dietz & Watson, founded in 1940, has been expanding its factory in the Philadelphia area, too.

"I think it's a great deal," said Mitchell. "They'll be able to hire many more people than we'd ever be able to hire."

Although Parks Sausage sold the factory, the Parks brand name and product lineup does not go with it, Mitchell emphasized. Parks owners Mitchell and Franco Harris, former football teammates at Pennsylvania State University, intend to continue to market the Parks Sausage line by outsourcing production to other manufacturers. Dietz & Watson officials could not be reached for comment yesterday. The Philadelphia company plans to spend $6.4 million to buy and upgrade the factory, according to state economic development officials.

The deal originally was to close Monday, but was delayed a day by some minor details that had to be worked out, Mitchell said.

The Parks Sausage plant, a $16 million facility, has been idle for more than a week, after the owners said production would no longer continue there. Mitchell estimated that Dietz & Watson could have the factory retooled and running in three months to six months.

Parks was owned and was being managed by Harris and Mitchell, who starred in professional football for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Colts, respectively. Harris rescued Parks out of bankruptcy, where it landed under its prior owners after taking on a big debt load to build the new factory.

By most accounts, Harris and Mitchell made the right moves in an effort to revive the company, which has long been known as a successful, minority-owned enterprise with a catchy jingle: "More Parks Sausages, Mom -- please?"

They eliminated some poor-selling products and outsourced production of others. That out-sourcing strategy will continue, keeping the Parks brand name alive, Mitchell said yesterday. And, without the high costs associated with owning and running a factory, more money will be available for advertising and marketing, he said.

"We're not out of the business," Mitchell said. "We're not disappearing -- Parks will still be around with new products and an expanded line. It's a new era."

Dietz & Watson will receive $750,000 in state "Sunny Day" loans that convert to grants if the company is employing 150 people here in 2001. State officials believe that the worker ranks could be even larger, given Dietz & Watson's plans.

Dietz & Watson won't receive the Sunny Day money for two to three months, said Jacqueline Lampell, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

Parks Sausage was employing about 45 people in the factory when it shut down.

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