After 83 years at its original West Salem location, Oregon Fruit Products has found a new home.
The company plans to move its headquarters and processing plant by the end of the year, though it won’t be going far. CEO Chris Sarles announced a deal Thursday to buy the former NORPAC canning facility in southeast Salem, near the city’s airport.
“We were pleased to share with our team that the company roots would remain firmly planted in Salem,” Sarles said in a statement. “We are looking forward to growing our business and employment in the city where we were established.”
Oregon Fruit Products was founded in 1935 by Max Gehlar. Today, the company sells a variety of canned, frozen and processed fruit including cherries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries.
In recent years, Oregon Fruit has also expanded its fruit for fermentation business aimed at breweries and cider mills. With expansion has come the need to increase production capacity, Sarles said.
“We continue to grow very nicely,” Sarles told the Capital Press. “We’ve had some year-over-year growth that has pushed us to a place where we’ve had to both update our equipment, as well as give us some breathing room.”
Sarles, who was hired in 2014, said the company spent several years looking for a new facility either in Salem or elsewhere. In July 2017, NORPAC Foods sold its canning business to Seneca Foods Corp., which presented an opportunity for Oregon Fruit to take over the old vegetable canning plant on 22nd Street Southeast.
Working with the Salem City Council, Mayor Chuck Bennett and the nonprofit Strategic Economic Development Corp., Sarles said they were able to buy the 26-acre property. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
“Everyone worked well together,” Sarles together. “To stay in Salem and keep our team in place is just great. We’re very excited.”
Oregon Fruit has 85 full-time employees, plus roughly 100 seasonal workers during harvest season.
Renovation of the old NORPAC cannery will begin right away, and Sarles said company managers hope to finish moving operations by November or December. At 165,000 square feet, the building is larger than they need, but will allow them to grow into the space.
“We’re continuing to make significant investments in the building to really make it an updated facility over there,” he said.
Oregon Fruit remained in the Gehlar family for three generations before selling to Ed and Cyndy Maletis in 2011. Ed Maletis and his family also own several other Oregon-based businesses, including Portland Bottling Co. and HealthCo Information Systems.
Maletis said his goal is to preserve the legacy of Oregon Fruit as a local, family-owned business.
“With more room to expand, we are eager to start this next chapter and build on its 83-year history as a growing, successful Oregon company,” he said.