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US Foods closing local warehouse

Company says it will retain 125 drivers, sales employees

The US. Foods warehouse on Burns Avenue will close in September, eliminating 65

jobs, according to the

national company.

The firm will transfer those warehouse operations to its facilities in Greensburg and Allentown, although the Altoona property will “remain operational as a shuttle yard,” company spokeswoman Sara Matheu wrote in an email.

The company will retain about 125 drivers and sales employees who work in the Altoona region, Matheu wrote.

US Foods will be offering severance packages, “employment services support” and opportunities to apply to other company facilities in the region for those losing their jobs, Matheu wrote.

“Decisions like this are never easy, and right now, we’re focused on supporting the associates who will be transitioning,” Matheu wrote.

The company also has plans in place “to ensure our customers will continue to experience the same exceptional service they have come to expect,” she wrote.

The company issued a required 90-day closure notice for the warehouse workers Tuesday, according to Rocco Alianiello, who worked for the company 37 years, ending in 2017, at which time he was area president, in charge of the Altoona, Greensburg and West Virginia divisions.

When the closure is complete, the Greensburg facility will send loaded trailers to be dropped off in Altoona, after which Altoona-based drivers will hook up their tractors, then pull the trailers to their destinations in the region, Alianiello said.

No longer will workers in Altoona receive inventory to be loaded onto trucks here and shipped, Alianiello said.

The cash-and-carry store here will also close, as he understands it, Alieniello said. He learned about the coming changes from current employees who used to work for him.

“It’s a sad situation,” Alaniello said.

The Altoona operation of US Foods began as Sky Bros. in the 1930s, according to Neil Port, whose father Sam joined the company — founded by Moses and Israel Sky — early on.

The company started by peddling fish, Port said.

Eventually, it moved to frozen foods, he said.

Neil Port joined the firm in 1981.

There was a warehouse at 18th Street and 10th Avenue. After it was slated for demolition to make way for the 10th Avenue expressway project, management moved to the Burns Avenue property, said Port, who was by then himself a manager, working with his cousins, Israel’s sons, Asher and Phil Sky.

They built up the business, then, in 1986, sold it to Sara Lee.

Sara Lee is one of a bewildering number of companies involved in the history of US Foods, according to an online accounting.

“It’s sad for me and for the community,” Port said of the coming change, echoing Alianiello.

He suspects that the restaurant and other closures necessitated by COVID-19 factored into the company’s closure decision.

Sky Bros. was “a very good place to work,” Alianiello said. “Family oriented.”

The work ethic among the Altoona employees was always strong, he said.

He declined to say the plan to close the warehouse is wrong. Business cultures change, he said.

“It’s a public company,” he said. “(Management) has to be aware of the bottom line.”

Companies “looking to survive sometimes have to make difficult decisions,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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