Calumet, Michigan is a village in the northwest part of Upper Michigan, which has a very long history of people generally of Lombardo-Venetian descent. The Paul J. Baroni Company has long been a distributor of Italian food products. The old Italian-American Federation of the Upper Peninsula was based in Calumet I believe. We can look into the history of that an another time.
A tradition on the move
Calumet’s Baroni Company to be taken over by Vollwerth’s of Hancock
KURT HAUGLIE - Mining Gazette.com - 8-22-08
CALUMET - Having a business owned by the same family for 73 years is quite a tradition, but some traditions have to come to an end. Although the products of the Paul J. Baroni Company will still be made, the company will no longer be owned by the Baroni family.
Nancy Baroni, who has been running the company, which makes sauces, various pastas and frozen pizzas, for two-and-a-half years, said although family members hadn't been giving serious thought to getting out of the business, when the opportunity came up last November they took it.
"It just kind of came up in conversation," she said.
That conversation was with Jim Schaaf, general manager of Vollwerth & Company of Hancock, Baroni said.
Because she's the only family member involved with production of their products, and because the next generation of Baronis have other career interests, Baroni said it seemed like the proper moment to think about moving on.
"The time was right," she said.
Currently, Baroni said besides herself there are one full-time and one part-time employee making the Baroni products. She does much of the local delivery of the products herself.
Baroni said Vollwerth's distributes its products, as well as Baroni products, to most of the Upper Peninsula and to parts of Northern Wisconsin, which is one of the factors that helped the family make the decision about selling to the sausage manufacturer.
"They're just a competent, long-standing company," she said.
Baroni said after Vollwerth's takes over production at their plant at the beginning of 2009, she'll be around for a time as production manager.
"I'm going to stay on as long as they need me," she said. "We have to keep the Baroni name going."
To assure that, Baroni said company containers and labels will continue to be used after the switch to Vollwerth's, as will the company product recipes.
"Nothing's really going to change," she said. "Your still going to have the same great products."
The full-time employee, Jared Liimatta, will continue making Baroni products when the production is moved to the Vollwerth Hancock plant.
Schaaf said after Baroni suggested Vollwerth & Company take over Baroni's it was decided that was a good idea because of the Baroni tradition.
"They've been a business for a long time," he said.
Vollwerth is a family-owned business, also, Schaaf said, and because Baroni's makes quality products, Vollwerth officials are interested in keeping the line going.
"They have a lot of loyal customers," he said. "We're not going to make any changes."
Production of the Baroni items will continue in Calumet until the kitchen at the Vollwerth Hancock Street plant can be expanded to accommodate the Baroni canning equipment, Schaaf said. A new storage facility will be constructed behind the plant.
On Sept. 1, Vollwerth will take over production at the Baroni plant on Sixth Street in Calumet, Schaaf said.
Schaaf said after the take over of Baroni, Vollwerth's will still make most of their products, including the sauces, ravioli, chili and frozen lasagna and ravioli entrees. The company doesn't have the floor space to continue the Baroni frozen pizzas now, but they may add them in the future.
Schaaf said it was decided not to purchase the Baroni manufacturing plant and continue production there.
"It was most practical to have it in one building," he said.
Baroni said the Baroni building will either be sold or rented out.
It is sad the tradition of Baroni family ownership of the company is coming to an end, but Baroni said it's time.
"It's going to be hard," she said. "I think it's a good move."
Kurt Hauglie can be reached at email@example.com