Melissa Juried Kriebel
After more than a century in the western Ramapo village of Suffern, international cosmetics conglomerate Avon Products plans to close up shop and move its research and development operations to Brazil and Poland within 18 months.
The transition will begin with layoffs of employees in March 2023, Mayor Michael Curley said Thursday after speaking with company officials.
Avon plans to close its doors in 2024 and develop facilities in its two largest markets, the company stated in a news release on Friday.
At its peak, the facility employed an estimated 1,500 people. Curley estimated Avon is down to 160 employees locally.
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The company said locating research and development in key Avon markets will enable closer connections with representatives and consumers.
“For 136 years, breakthrough innovation has been at the core of the Avon brand with our proprietary technology and award-winning, affordable beauty products,” CEO Angela Cretu said in the statement. “We believe this evolution of our R&D operations will give us access to a wider ecosystem of partners to drive our innovation pipeline.”
Curley, a bar-restaurant owner elected mayor in November 2021, said he wants to plan for the future use of the massive Avon campus. He is awaiting to learn if Avon plans to sell or lease the property.
“I may consider a public-private partnership,” Curley said, referring to possibly getting involved in purchasing the property.
Avon’s humble beginnings began in 1882 when founder David McConnell started making five perfume scents in a room barely larger than a kitchen pantry, according to Journal News archives provided by Suffern Historian Craig Long.
Avon opened a manufacturing facility in downtown Suffern in 1897, moving up from New York City under California Perfume Co. McConnell, a Suffern resident, built a three-story wooden building off Lafayette Avenue in the heart of downtown Suffern. He changed the company name to Avon.
Archives: Newspaper reports and photos of Avon in its beginnings.
The company added warehousing and research, and development facilities. By 1903, the business grew to employ 103 employees.
But Avon has been downsizing for years.
In 2002, Avon announced plans to move 200 manufacturing jobs from Suffern to a plant in a Cincinnati suburb of Springdale. The movement became part of a company realignment to make operations of the cosmetics manufacturer more efficient and cut costs, officials said at the time
In 2003, the company stopped manufacturing product, but it also broke ground on a $100 million research and development center on the Suffern campus.
In 2019 Suffern negotiated a deal to buy Avon’s warehouse and its nearly 2-acre parcel for almost $2.9 million to create more parking and potentially sell a piece to spur economic development in the downtown. The purchase involved the company’s 35.000-square-foot Nail Enamel Building at 37 Washington Ave. The deal collapsed when the Suffern Central Board of Education voted against the sale. The district became part of the decision-making because Avon operated under a payment in lieu of taxes agreement.
Under the 2004 PILOT, Avon agreed to pay $479,000 for each of the first 11 years and to make annual payments starting at $493,000 and rising to $643,000 for the remaining years. Almost two-thirds of that money goes to the school district, with the village getting most of the remainder.
Avon had agreed to continue honoring the last five years of its 20-year PILOT agreement on all of its Suffern property with the school district, county, and town of Ramapo, while the village would have waived its share.
Curley said the pilot program providing Avon with tax breaks could be rescinded and the new owner could go back to paying the higher non-subsidized taxes.
Avon becomes another lost business
Avon would become the third major business to close locally in recent years.
- Novartis, a major pharmaceutical company, closed its 162-acre campus. The new owners have development plans before the Suffern Planning Board for 1.2-million-square-feet of distribution warehousing.
- Tilcon sold its 60-acre quarry property to Ramapo for $1 in 2006. Ramapo closed on the sale for $5 million this year to a New Jersey developer, which plans warehousing on the property.
Long, a retired Suffern police detective and longtime historian for Suffern and Ramapo, said Suffern and Avon are synonymous,
“You can’t think of Suffern without thinking of Avon,” long said. adding the company has always been an integral part of the community.
He cited Avon Park, McConnell Stadium, paid for by the company in honor of the founder’s son, at the Suffern Middle School.
Avon served as a major employer for residents and in the 1970s was Rockland’s second-largest, non-government employer with more than a thousand employees.
“It will be an extremely sad day if Avon shuts its doors and leaves the village of Suffern,” Long said. “The departure will mark the close of a very important chapter in Suffern’s history.”
Steve Lieberman covers government, breaking news, courts, police, and investigations. Reach him at email@example.com. Twitter: @lohudlegal.
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