Niagara Ceramics, the dinnerware manufacturer that was created after the closing of Buffalo China nine years ago, is shutting down, throwing 110 workers out of their jobs.
The company announced the shutdown of its sprawling factory at 75 Hayes Place on Monday in a filing with the state Labor Department.
Company officials, in the filing, cited “economic” reasons for the closing, which they said was effective immediately.
Robert L. Lupica, the former Buffalo China executive and president of Niagara Ceramics, could not be reached to comment.
Lupica was part of an investment group headed by Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, that purchased the Buffalo business for $5.5 million from Oneida Ltd., which had announced the year before that the plant would be closed. The plant was purchased with a combination of Collins’ personal capital, bank financing and tax incentives.
Collins released the following statement Monday, noting that he was no longer involved with the company:
“I am sorry to hear of the closure of Niagara Ceramics, something I learned about today for the first time from the media. I transferred my ownership interest in Niagara Ceramics in 2012, at no cost, to the management team in an effort to give them the best chance possible at future success. I have had no involvement in the company since that point. Prior to 2012, I had not been involved in day-to-day management of the company since 2007.”
Buffalo China had at least 325 workers at the time of its shutdown in March 2004. Niagara Ceramics hired 240 workers as it began its operations, reducing wages and benefits from what they were under Buffalo China. By late last year, the company’s workforce had dwindled to around 110.
At the time, Lupica blamed the company’s shrinking workforce on the recession that began in late 2007.
The dwindling employment was at the center of controversial ads from supporters of former Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul that attacked Collins for job losses at the Buffalo plant. A review of the ads by The Buffalo News found that most of their claims were false.
The ads claimed Collins fired more than 100 workers after acquiring the company, but Collins supporters said the purchase was made five months after Oneida detailed plans to close the factory and that the new owners did not fire anyone.
Niagara Ceramics was one of just two major producers of commercial-quality dinnerware in the United States. The company supplied popular chain restaurants and nursing homes, and also made dinnerware used at local attractions, including the Roycroft Inn and Darwin Martin House.
The Longaberger Co. announced in May that it would take over a portion of the Niagara Ceramics plant and start making some of its pottery products in Buffalo as part of its push to eventually make all of its pottery products in the United States. Longaberger said it expected to employ 22 people at its pottery-making venture at the plant.
Collins said in his statement that Niagara Ceramics faced unfair competition.
“Niagara Ceramics consistently struggled because of unfair competition from Chinese manufacturers who benefit from China manipulating its currency at the expense of American jobs. As a member of Congress, I believe strongly that the U.S. must take a harder stand against this unfair practice by the Chinese government.”