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Rocky Peanut Co. closes amid declining sales

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Ferndale-based Rocky Peanut Co., a wholesale distributor of nuts fruits and candy, closed about four weeks ago after struggling for years with declining sales, its owner Joseph Russo said Thursday.

The Ferndale distributor has “no affiliation” with the retailer in Eastern Market called Rocky’s Historic, which remains open, Russo said.

Sales at the peanut company had been falling for about the past three years, Russo said. Sales were down 24 percent in the first half of 2014 as customers either closed or hopped to other distributors. Rocky Peanut employed about 29 people, including 17 special needs workers, Russo said.

“(Customers) are letting quality and service go and are just looking for price,” he said in an interview. “We had a decent business, but it just wasn’t enough to pay the bills.”

Rocky Peanut sold nuts and fruits to a number of customers, including independent grocery stores, food service companies, country clubs, professional sports teams, and hotel and casino gift shops. The company also offered a line of corporate gifts, according to its website.

“From the Dairy Queen that wanted one box of granulated peanuts to church fundraisers ... Rocky Peanut was for the little guy,” Russo said. “We sold to anyone and everyone who wanted our product.”

According to the Rocky Peanut Co. website, Rocco (Rocky) Russo opened a retail location in Eastern Market in 1971. A wholesale distribution business was created in 1993, the website says.

Russo said the state of the economy and low sales made the decision to close easy, but sad.

“It was very emotional,” he said of the decision to close. “This has been a family business for a long time. I was never in it for the money.”

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