Lifeway Foods purchases Golden Guernsey dairy plant

WAUKESHA (WITI) -- Lifeway Foods placed the winning bid for the bankrupt Waukesha Golden Guernsey dairy plant. The winning bid was more than $7.3 million in a competitive auction on Tuesday, May 14th. A hearing to approve the sale is scheduled for June 10th.

“The bidding was very active and spirited, as we say,” bankruptcy trustee Charles Stanziale told The Business Journal late Tuesday afternoon.

Stanziale had focused on achieving a “turnkey” sale of the plant by finding a suitor that would operate it. He said Lifeway officials appeared to have interest in reaching out to former employees and want to “bring the place back to life.”

Lifeway Foods was founded by Michael Smolyansky, an immigrant who arrived in the United States from Kiev, Ukraine in 1976. According to Wikipedia, 10 years after moving to the U.S., Smolyansky found the fermented milk drink kefir at a food show and decided to start producing it.

Lifeway's flagship product is kefir. Lifeway Foods sells it in several varieties, including low-fat, non-fat, Greek, organic, and low-carb varieties, as well as these in several different flavors.

"Golden Guernsey has been a supplier of milk for us as we have grown our company tremendously. Our intention is to hire more people from the community -- to hire more local people," Lifeway CFO Ed Smolyansky said.

Over 100 people were suddenly laid off after the Golden Guernsey dairy plant unexpectedly closed its doors in January. The company that owned the plant has since filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

One of those employees laid off was Dave Geiger, an employee since 1987. He was excited to hear Tuesday's news.

"There's a lot of people waiting for this to happen right now. It's time to fire that place up," Geiger said.

Geiger was able to find work after he was laid off, but says others weren't so lucky.

"It`s really hard to find work nowadays. I was lucky Outdoor Outfitters dragged me in. Everyone else, it`s a rough go. I know for a fact there are a lot of people not working yet and the stuff that went out today is good news for all of them," Geiger said.

Ed Smolyansky says the company has plans to make changes to the facility to make it more eco-friendly.

"I think there`s gonna be people lining up around the block to get in at Golden Guernsey and they should.  It`s a great place and I can`t wait to see it operational," Geiger said.

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