Red Zoo Marketing, a large Canadian grower-shipper of greenhouse tomatoes and other vegetables has closed its doors.

Jay Colasanti, president and co-owner of Red Zoo, Ruthven, Ontario, said the company’s last shipment of tomatoes from growers arrived May 1.

Red Zoo Marketing closes its doors

The company plans to liquidate its assets, Colasanti said May 7.

 “We’ve had some difficulties with some investments in Mexico,” said Colasanti, who formed the company, then called Performance Produce, with partner Cliff Robinson in 1991. “The salmonella issues from last year really broke our back. Then, we’ve had issues this season with the bad markets.

“Our liquidity had fallen to the point where we just couldn’t see the company falling further in debt. We’ve ceased operations and now look at possibilities at liquidating assets.”

Colasanti said he wanted to liquidate assets as quickly as possible so that “we can take care of our unsecured creditors in a professional manner.”

Most of Red Zoo’s assets are tied into its 90,000-square-foot main facility in Ruthven.

“We’re just going to take the company out of the race now, so as not to drag this out further,” Colasanti said.

Colasanti said attempts were made at selling the company in hopes of perhaps sparing at least some of the 70-person staff the company employs.

“But in this economy,” Colasanti said, “nobody wants to take on that much debt.

“Our team is one of the most professional in the industry. Many have already been approached by other companies.”

 Throughout the 1990s, Colasanti and Robinson grew Performance Produce into one of North America’s premier shippers of greenhouse produce. In 1997, Performance became the first produce dealer to win a company of the year award from the Leamington, Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

By 2000, Performance Produce had evolved into Red Zoo, and at its peak, the company employed nearly 100 and shipped in excess of 5 million cartons of fresh produce.

Near the end of 2006, Red Zoo nearly doubled its total production in Mexico and expanded its volumes of specialty vegetable items there, moving into year-round production of GrapeRoma and Amorosa cocktail tomatoes.