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Turkey company to miss Thanksgiving after fire wipes out inventory

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Turkeys stand in their enclosure at Tara Firma Farms on November 21, 2017 in Petaluma, California.

Greenberg Smoked Turkeys usually gets about 200,000 birds to people each year. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Every November, UPS trucks line up as far as the eye can see in Tyler, Texas, to pick up tens of thousands of smoked thanksgiving turkeys from Greenberg Smoked Turkeys, a family business since 1938. These birds are so smoked they keep in transit.

But this Thanksgiving, there are no Greenberg turkeys. Greenberg’s cold storage facility caught fire and blew up earlier this month after some kind of equipment malfunction. The turkey smoker was untouched, but it’s too late to rescue the season.

The owner, Sam Greenberg, spoke with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio about the explosion and how the company is hoping to move forward, and the following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

David Brancaccio: You normally get, I don’t know, about 200,000 turkeys to people every year? But it’s just not going to happen this year now.

Sam Greenberg: It’s not gonna happen. Friday, two weeks ago, on the 6th of November, we had a catastrophic fire that wiped out our entire smoked turkey inventory — all the turkeys that had been smoked up to that time, just a little under 90,000 turkeys. And then, wiped out all of our shipping room. It also wiped out all of my inventory of boxes and bags and paper bags and poly bags. And even if I got bags, I didn’t have a place to store the turkeys. Even if I got the storage, I don’t have a place to ship them. So I was in a mess. We just basically had to call off the 2020 season.

Brancaccio: So now, what, you’re thinking about 2021?

Greenberg: That is exactly what we’re doing. Let me back up and say something: This company was built on the best customers in the world. The outpouring of support that we have had in the last two weeks is an unimaginable by anybody’s means. Any business would be concerned, especially a seasonal business, that if you weren’t in operation for a year that people would forget about you. But I’m telling you with the outpouring of support that we’ve had, I’m so engaged, so, so happy about what’s going to happen going forward. We’re going to have a better facility. And our customers are going to — I think they will come back in droves.

Brancaccio: Well that says a lot, right? You have these loyal customers, so they’re not just gonna buy ham, and forget about you moving forward. You think that if you can rebuild it, they will come back.

Greenberg: I think that’s exactly what’s going happen. Because our customers are that loyal. And they’ve proven it by what they’re doing right now. We of course had pre-sold about 60,000 turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And in refunding that money, the droves of emails and calls that we got don’t telling us not to refund their money, they wanted us to keep it so we could use it to rebuild, it’s unbelievable. Especially in this day and age of everything feeling so divisive. This was actually just the most heartwarming thing you could ever imagine.

Brancaccio: Sam, what is it about 2020 here?

Greenberg: Well, let’s hope it’s this way — that we’re getting everything bad out of our system at one time. Also, know that as bad as it looked on the evening of Nov. 6, as horrible as I felt, I know that there’s always tomorrow, and you just have to fight through it, use all the resources you have and go forward. You can’t keep looking back.

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