After almost 40 years in Maryland, Ann's House of Nuts — the nation's leading producer of trail mixes — is relocating to Minnesota and closing its popular Columbia retail outlet store.
Located at 9212 Berger Road, the outlet store will close Sept. 14, Ann's House of Nuts CEO Mark Zurcher said.
Ann's corporate office, which has 35 employees and is located around the corner from the outlet store, will close by Oct. 1.
Zurcher, who took over as CEO in April of 2011, said the decision stemmed from Ann's 2010 merger with Amports Foods, a Minnesota-based producer of dried fruits. Together, the two companies make up Flagstone Foods, which is headquartered in Minnesota. Flagstone Foods is owned by Gryphon Investors.
"We had critical mass in Minnesota," Zurcher said. "To be competitive, we consolidated corporation functions. The shared services model is going to keep us competitive and give us the ability to grow the business."
For store regulars like Columbia vegans Jim and Janene Ayer, the news was disappointing.
"It's sad to see a business like this leave the state," said Jim Ayer, 65. "It seems like we are losing a friend!"
Ayer said he and his wife eat nuts with everything, and when it came to prices, Ann's couldn't be beat.
"Their prices were good, their products were good. They had a lot of options," Ayer said. "We are really going to miss them."
Becky McKirahan of Jessup, who's been a customer for 15 years, said, "It's sad when you lose such a unique store. We won't be able to get the same kind of selection."
Howard County Chamber of Commerce president Pam Klahr said the organization was sorry to see the company leave.
"It was a benefit to the quality of life in the community to have the headquarters and outlet in Columbia," Klahr said. "We regret the loss of any company that feels it cannot pursue its success here in Howard County."
Zurcher said the company explored keeping the outlet store open, but that it ultimately didn't make sense logistically.
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The company announced the move internally in early April, and offered employees competitive severance, transition incentives and out placement assistance, Zurcher said.
"We have a lot of great people and wanted to make sure we made offers and give them a long transition window," Zurcher said.
Approximately four of the 12 corporate employees the company extended offers to will move from the Columbia-based office to Minnesota, Zurcher said.
Ann's House of Nuts was created in 1973 by Ann and Ed Zinke, who ran the company out of their home before establishing a corporate office in Rockville in 1982.The growing company then moved to a larger headquarters in Jessup before relocating to Columbia in 2009.
The Zinke family sold the company to Olympus Partners, a Connecticut-based firm, in 2008. Two-years later, Gryphon Investors bought it.
Zurcher said the Zinke family is still involved with the business, including Dan Zinke, vice president of procurement.
Although the outlet store is closing, Zurcher said customers can still buy select Ann's House of Nuts products at area grocery stores like Shopper's, Giant and Weis Markets.