Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 6, 2013

After nearly two years, Flowers Bakery building remains vacant

BLUEFIELD — For nearly two years now, motorists traveling down U.S. Route 52 have not encountered the scent of freshly baked bread.

When the Flowers Bakery closed in March 2011, it took approximately 164 local jobs and $105,000 in annual tax revenues to Mercer County with it. Though the bakery’s two small discount stores in Princeton and Bluefield remain, the bakery itself remains vacant nearly two years after shutting it’s doors.

Dana Hawks’ husband Brian worked at Flowers and she said the bakery’s closure was rough on their entire family. Hawks said her husband found employment roughly seven months ago, but worked odd jobs before that to help the family make ends meet.

“It was a big money drop for us,” she said. “We weren’t expecting it at all. He found out watching the news that morning that he didn’t have a job anymore. It’s been a lot tougher now to find employment with the way the economy is. I worked, too, and he got unemployment for a while. It has been rough for our family.”

Janet Bailey, executive director of the Mercer County Development Authority, said Flowers still owns the property on Route 52.

“Flowers Bakery still owns the building, and they have not given us any permission to market or sell it,” Bailey said. “We last contacted them three weeks ago, and they said they aren’t ready to release the property yet.”

Bailey said the unwillingness of Flowers to sell the property has been frustrating as several companies have expressed interest in purchasing the building and opening up new businesses there.

“Flowers has not given any indication of why they aren’t willing to sell the property,” Bailey said.

“We have had several companies express interest to us in the property. It has the right square footage for a lot facilities in this area, but for whatever reason, Flowers hasn’t expressed any interest in selling it. We have mainly been in contact with their real estate department, and I don’t know if there is someone higher up who wants to sell the property, but for whatever reason they are not at the point where they are willing to sell.”

Robbie Watkins, president of Flowers Bakery, previously told the Daily Telegraph that the bakery was too outdated to keep up with current demand and replacing the equipment was not viable for the company leading to the closure.

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com

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