Russell Stover Chocolates closing Colorado plant over virus

Associated Press
A Russell Stover caramels and chews assortment of chocolates.

DENVER — Russell Stover Chocolates has announced its candy plant in Montrose will close seven months ahead of schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic, a decision that will leave 217 employees without work.

The Kansas City, Missouri-based chocolatier said in January that the plant and a retail store in Montrose would close by March 2021, with operations shifted to facilities in Texas and Kansas, The Denver Post reported.

"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was impossible to anticipate or foresee in January of 2020, we have been forced to accelerate the Montrose and retail store closure earlier than initially planned. The closing of these facilities will be permanent," human resources vice president Jim Kissinger told the state Department of Labor in a letter required under Colorado's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

The plant was the largest manufacturer in Montrose, population about 19,000, and has produced sweets for 45 of the company's 97 years in business.

Its operations employed about 400 people when the company made the January announcement, but many employees have already left for other jobs, company officials said.

The remaining 217 workers will be let go by the end of August, with some losing their jobs in July. 

In other Colorado employment news, state officials released two letters Tuesday from resort hotels in Aspen and Beaver Creek that said operations would not return to normal as quickly as anticipated.

The St. Regis Aspen Resort has extended furloughs, layoffs or job hour reductions for 263 employees, officials said.

"These expanded and extended government directives have caused a sudden, severe and worsening downturn in the hospitality industry that now makes it reasonably foreseeable that these temporary actions may extend beyond six months," company human resources director Darren Zemnick told the state in a letter.

The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Hotel in Eagle County also told the state that it would remain closed, extending furloughs for 102 employees likely through December and laying off seven employees.

"While there are encouraging signs that our economy can begin to reopen in some areas, it has now become clear that the demand for travel, events, and hospitality services will take substantially longer to resume than previously anticipated," said Herb Rackliff, general manager of the hotel. 

He added: "With likely ongoing social distancing, until a reliable COVID-19 vaccine or treatment becomes available, we cannot predict when our way of doing business will return to normal."