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NORTH LIMA Pa. company acquires United Canning Corp.



Published: Sun, April 13, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Twelve cannery workers will retain their jobs under the new ownership.

By CYNTHIA VINARSKY

VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER

NORTH LIMA -- Creekside Mushrooms, a Worthington, Pa., company that advertises itself as the largest mushroom-growing facility in the world, has added a North Lima cannery to its operations.

Marcella Innocenzi, president of United Canning Corp., said the 40-year-old business on Pine Lake Road has been sold for an undisclosed amount.

The 12 workers at the cannery will keep their jobs, she said, and her husband, Richard Innocenzi, will continue as plant manager. Two office positions, including hers, will be eliminated.

Brand name

Creekside bought the cannery and the brand name it has used for decades, Sno*Top Fancy Button Mushrooms. The cannery will operate as a sister company to Creekside under the name Sno*Top LLC.

Competition from cheap foreign mushroom companies forced the family-owned business to sell. "Everyone wants cheap," Innocenzi said bitterly.

Yearly sales were in the $2 million range in the 1990s, but in recent years the average had dropped to $1 million. Creekside will likely be able to keep its prices down and still make a profit, she explained, because it sells in larger quantities.

In the beginning

Innocenzi's father, John E. Vecchione, founded United Canning Corp. in East Palestine in 1963 with the backing of some stockholders, adding a mushroom farm in North Lima five years later.

He owned two Youngstown companies before he got into the mushroom business, first the Rigby Market in Youngstown in the 1950s, then Frankie's Prepared Foods on West Federal Street.

In 1977 he built a new cannery at the farm on Pine Lake Road and moved the whole operation to North Lima.

Vecchione sold the farm in 1981, and those owners closed it about two years ago. United Canning had been getting its mushrooms from Creekside since then, so the two companies already had a business relationship.

Underground farm

Based in southwestern Pennsylvania, Creekside Mushrooms operates an underground mushroom farm in a 150-mile labyrinth of tunnels originally created by limestone mining.

It is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest mushroom-growing operation.

vinarsky@vindy.com




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