Condolences are pouring in to Petra Kassun-Mutch who shared with friends that the award-winning Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Company has closed its doors – but interim president Christine Legein says that is still a worst-case scenario.
“We are trying not to close our doors. We are having cash flow difficulties, restructuring the businesses and seeking investors,” said Legein, “We aren’t out of the woods yet, but closing is still a worst-case scenario and we’re doing everything we can to avoid that. Some misinformation got out there so most importantly we want to let people know the retail part of the store is still open.”
Legein said layoffs this week followed the “temporary suspension of cheese production” but retail staff have been called back to “keep the store open. There is still plenty in inventory.”
The retail store is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Kassun-Mutch, who continues as a shareholder, had expressed her gratitude to all the staff (present and former) and the community who participated in making it happen over the past four years. “A special thanks to those who tried to tough it out in hopes of a better next phase. Even with doors closed, and whether you loved it or were of the “Told you so” crowd, we together created something positive that will, in spite of its physical close, endure for years to come.”
And her Facebook posters agree:
“Petra – I’m so sorry to hear this news. I love the product and the vision and will miss FT very much. Thank you for all the delicious cheese memories!”
“Petra, thank-you for creating magic. You have incredible vision and for that we are grateful. Plus your team made killer green cheese!”
Fifth Town was founded by Kassun-Mutch, whose vision and determination saw the dairy grow from an idea to Canada’s greenest dairy. After several years in design and development the dairy officially opened in June 2008 with just five employees and three farm suppliers. Its first batch of cheese at the dairy was on July 2nd, 2008. Since then, Fifth Town grew to more than 16 employees with seven farm suppliers, and generated more than $1.2M in revenues annually.
In 2011, Kassun-Mutch stepped down from her role as president, but remained a shareholder in the company. Christine Legein was appointed interim president in August 2011. She was vice president of CCC Investment Banking, a leading mid-market Canadian investment bank with a specialization in the food processing industry.
Fifth Town was Canada’s only Platinum LEED manufacturing facility and the only Platinum LEED dairy in the world. It has also received many awards for a variety of initiatives including sustainable enterprise management, marketing, innovation, and architecture. Fifth Town is Canada’s 8th B Corporation and achieved highest score at time of certification.
“Fifth Town, for me, was not just about cheese,” Kassun-Mutch said last August. “It was also a wonderful opportunity to apply what I had learned so far in life and business, to the design and launch of a brand new, forward-looking, social purpose enterprise with an emphasis on sustainability. So, while Fifth Town has been the centre of my professional life over the past seven years, I plan to continue to develop my strong interest in social purpose enterprise design and management because I believe that achieving social goals while generating a reasonable return for investors are entirely possible—and perhaps even necessary.”
Kassun-Mutch designed the company from the outset as a social purpose enterprise with governing values focused on leadership in sustainable enterprise management, local community contributions, and the triple bottom line. Approximately 93 per cent of the money spent to make, market and distribute its products stayed in the community.
Kassun-Mutch continues supporting the development of the social enterprise sector in Canada through her new company The Zugunruhe Project. Visit her website www.zugunruhe.ca
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