Mastroianni’s closing leaves void for stores, shoppers

One section of the aisle was noticeably empty Wednesday, with just 11 products for purchase scattere
Picked over shelves at the Price Chopper on Balltown Road in Niskayuna.
Picked over shelves at the Price Chopper on Balltown Road in Niskayuna.

One section of the aisle was noticeably empty Wednesday, with just 11 products for purchase scattered across three shelves. It’s what was left of Mastroianni Brothers Bakery’s bread and rolls at the Niskayuna Price Chopper after the company announced Tuesday it was shutting down operations.

The Price Chopper on Altamont Avenue in Rotterdam was “wiped clean” of Mastroianni products, an employee said Wednesday, and an employee at the Hannaford on Altamont Avenue said they were out prior to the bakery’s announcement.

But while local supermarkets and grocers are running out of Mastroianni products, the bakery’s most recent CEO is making a frantic push to resurrect the company.

“A lot of people want to see us pull off this miracle and buy the bakery,” Warren Zeiser said.

Mastroianni shut down operations this week after years of declining sales, the company said Tuesday. The closing of the Rotterdam-based institution, which opened in 1923, leaves a void for consumers who have purchased Mastroianni loaves, rolls and pizza dough for years. Meanwhile, Zeiser, hired as Mastroianni’s CEO in July 2015, is trying to pull together a group of investors to revive the company.

Zeiser is meeting with different potential partners over the next few days to see about purchasing the bakery, but it’s unclear if there’s enough time to make it work.

“The key is to find the right strategic partner,” he said. “It looks like we could raise the money needed, but we don’t just want to raise the money, we want to bring in the right strategic partner.”

A lot of damage was done to the company and its reputation during the final months of its existence, he said.

Zeiser was hired after years of financial losses. One year wasn’t nearly enough time to turn the company around, he said. He said in the time he was in charge, the company was able to cut some costs and increase sales. In the past year, Mastroianni introduced eight new products, including smaller loaves and more whole-grain options.

He said there are deals on the table that would have hit the books from August to October and provided $500,000 to $700,000 for the company. Ultimately, the clock ran out, and the board of directors decided last Friday to close for good.

“We were on the right path, but unfortunately we ran out of time,” Zeiser said. “It’s like you ran a marathon and the last mile you pull a hamstring.”

While a last-minute purchase remains a long shot, retailers such as Hannaford, Price Chopper, Whole Foods and other local markets are left to fill the shelf space vacated by Mastroianni.

Eric Blom, a spokesman for Hannaford Supermarkets, said the bakery’s products were popular with customers, adding that the company values partnerships with local vendors. To replace Mastroianni products, he said, Hannaford will be looking at some combination of increasing the volume of other local bread vendors and seeking out new local partners.

“We know our customers particularly value local products,” he said. “So we certainly will try to continue to make that type of product available to them.”

The Niskayuna Co-op, which still had some Mastroianni products left on the shelves Wednesday afternoon, will also be adding another local product.

Jennifer Felitte, general manager of the co-op, said there aren’t many places in the area that bake bread and then sell directly to stores like Mastroianni did.

“I’m curious how the hole in the market is going to be filled,” she said.

“There are a lot of local bakeries in the area; this may be the shot in the arm they need.”

Reach Gazette reporter Brett Samuels 395-3113, [email protected] or @Brett_Samuels27.

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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