SHERIDAN — After more than a century in Sheridan, officials at Holly Seed announced the local business will soon be shutting its doors.
Jim Fuller, general manager at Holly Seed, confirmed the business that first called Sheridan home in 1915 will be shutting down in two to three weeks.
“We had to do it,” Fuller said “We are closing the doors. (The exact date) is contingent on when we get everything cleaned up for the new owners.”
Fuller said the 55,000-square-foot facility at 1457 Coffeen Ave. is being sold to an investment company based in Upton, although he was unable to provide additional details. Representatives for the new owners are already on site but were unable to respond to inquiries from The Sheridan Press prior to Tuesday’s deadline for this story.
According to previous news reports, Holly Seed was purchased in 2005 by Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, a company owned by family farmers in Minnesota which also operates a sugar beet factory in Brawley, California, with Holly Seed also more recently sharing an alliance with the Belgium company SESVanderHave.
Fuller said Holly Seed was left “high and dry” after SESVanderHave decided to exercise an out clause three years into a five-year contract with Holly Seed and join forces with Hilleshog, a company out of The Netherlands.
While later making its home in Sheridan, Holly Seed was first started in Holly, Colorado, in 1905. The “Holly” name was kept because founder Kenneth Schley liked the name, as holly berries are traditional symbols of friendship and good cheer.
The facility on Coffeen Avenue was built at a time when the company, then called Holly Sugars, produced sugar using sugar beets from area farmers. Other than for a short time during World War II, sugar hasn’t been produced at the Sheridan plant since the 1940s.
Production has instead focused on the development and production of sugar beet seeds, with the company operating several locations for seed research at one point in its history.
Mark Law, who joined the company in 1990 and left as its general manager in 2018, said a research center was developed on Fifth Street, as the company shifted from sugar to seed production. That site was closed in 2018, with the site adjacent to Sheridan High School now owned by Sheridan County School District 2.
The school district was able to purchase the property in February thanks to a $1.4-million donation from Homer “Scotty” and Janet Scott. The 7.8-acre site includes as many as five structures, including a main building with office space, a 4,000-square-foot shop, laboratory and three greenhouses.
SCSD2 officials have stated there are currently no formal plans to develop the property, though a capital construction committee was formed to discuss potential options and held its first meeting in mid-April.
Law added Holly Seed has struggled to stay open in recent years due to international competition.
“(Closure) could have happened four or five times during my career there,” Law said.
Without the contract with SESVanderHave, he said he could see where Holly Seed could no longer compete and stay open.
“It’s a tough, tough business,” Law added. “There’s very, very few companies that do it now.”
Fuller said the local business has reduced its workforce from a recent high of 23 employees to 11. Employees were first notified of the possible closure in February.
“We’re laying the people off,” he said. “We’re selling the equipment.
“It’s disheartening. It’s sad for us.”