Local RealEats vendors out thousands of dollars after Geneva company suddenly closes

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – When RealEats, a Geneva based prepared-meals company, closed its doors without warning earlier this month, 122 employees were suddenly left without jobs and millions of dollars in taxpayer investments were wasted. On top of that, a number of local small businesses who suppled products for RealEats, are now in the red too.

RealEats celebrated the fact that the meals it prepared and shipped to customers across the country, used ingredients sourced in the Finger Lakes. That is likely one of the reasons why both state and local leaders also supported tax incentives, grants and loans for the company when it expanded in 2021. 

Craft Cannery in Bergen manufacturers different brands of sauces, dressings and marinades.

“We’ve been producing products for RealEats probably for about a year now, we produced 5 or 6 different sauces that they use to make their meals,” says co-owner Tom Riggio. “We were getting paid no problem, up until the day before they closed, we were getting purchase orders for more products.”

That’s right, just one day before RealEats shut it doors for good, it ordered three months’ worth of products from Craft Cannery.

“Forget about the business side of it, but if you know something is going on, you cannot be allowing your people to order products from vendors a day before and that’s what happened,” Riggio says.  “And now, we have finished product here that has never shipped out, we have raw materials that we purchased to do their products and they’ve also obviously gotten quite a bit of inventory that we’ve sent to them, in the last 30 days that we’re not getting paid for.”

The reality is this small local vendor likely won’t see a dime for any of it, neither will a number of other local businesses in the same boat.

“We all received a letter the day after the announcement basically stating that as a vendor, you’re not going to get paid because our primary lenders are going to get the money first,” Riggio says. 

As News10NBC has previously reported, RealEats failed to file the proper notifications with the state that it would be laying off employees so 122 people lost their jobs with no notice. Those employees are now suing for 60 days of back pay. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for the NYS Department of Labor tells News10NBC, “The Department of Labor investigates all employers who fail to provide workers with sufficient notice under the WARN Act, including RealEats. We cannot comment on an open investigation but our Rapid Response team is working to help impacted employees to ensure they have access to unemployment insurance support and reemployment resources.”

A separate lawsuit has been filed by a group of Indiana investors who claim RealEats executives misled them about the company’s financial situation before they invested $450,000 in it, just 10 weeks before it closed. 

A $9 million investment made from the NYS Retirement fund is gone, as is a sperate $1 million investment made by the state with taxpayer dollars. Economic development leaders in Ontario County are hoping to claw back roughly $500,000 left on two separate loans extended to RealEats in 2019. 

“I’m involved in quite a few different businesses and have quite a few different investments and I’ve never seen something go south so quickly,” says Riggio of the RealEats closure. 

The CEO of RealEats, Dan Wise has not returned calls, emails and messages from News10NBC.