News 12 at 6 o'clock, November 14, 2008
AUGUSTA, Ga.---A major chapter in Augusta's history has come to an end. Castleberry's production line has shut down. News 12 has been following the story that began with a botulism outbreak. Management is now speaking out.
It's crystal clear Castleberry's will close its doors. The impact is far-reaching. There's the committed worker....
"I feel kinda bad about it," said Abraham. On his last day, Abraham was still running to get back before break came to an end.
"Did you ever think it would end this way," we asked. "No I didn't," said Abraham. "I don't think nobody really did."
There's the concerned neighbor....
"Yes, it's kind of a protection because they are there 24/7," said Mary Clayton, who has lived across the street for more than 50 years.
"Yeah," said Mary. "But I think the Lord will make a way. He always does."
And meanwhile, loyal customers like Cheryl Hanson are stocking up on their favorite product.
"I'll miss it," said Cheryl. "I'm going to miss Castleberry's."
This all comes as supervisors speak out for the first time.
"What's the mood like," we asked Joyce Bach who is team leader for meat receiving. "Everybody is loving and hugging and reminiscing," said Joyce. "I haven't seen anybody angry. They're mostly in tears."
But why? What brought this Augusta giant down.
"Bumble Bee bought us, and everything went to hell in a handbag," said Joyce.
Castleberry's closed last summer following a botulism outbreak. It has since re-opened, but a federal inspections report suggests a cover up.
Investigators say, "It was observed Castleberry personnel had sorted through lots and destroyed most of the swollen cans prior to our visit."
"We didn't know what was going on," said Joyce. "I work night-shift. They didn't tell me nothing. I get off at 1:30 in the morning."
She once got off at 1:30 in the morning. After more than 80 years in Augusta, Castleberry's fades into history.
"It's hard to let go," said Joyce.
More than 300 employees will now have to find a new job. Production picks up in New Jersey under a new company. A hand-full of employees will work into the coming weeks to close down the plant.