ATLANTIC CITY — Formica Bros. Bakery, an economic and culinary staple about to celebrate its 100th birthday in the resort, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy because of difficult economic conditions and two severe workplace injuries that resulted in amputations and lawsuits.

But the famous “Atlantic City bread” made by three generations of the Formica family will still be made, and almost all of the employees of the bakery — 67 of 71 — will keep their jobs, under a lease agreement that keeps the name and recipe alive, said longtime owner Frank Formica.

“We are just getting through all this — getting everything straight, keeping employees and customers,” said Pat McKenna, of Linwood, the new holder of the leases. And then, he said, he will celebrate the bakery’s 100th year, as it was started in 1919.

McKenna moved his food manufacturing company, A Taste of Italy, to Egg Harbor City two years ago from the Marlton area, he said. He also purchased Rastelli’s Seafood in Egg Harbor City.

Formica, a Republican Atlantic County freeholder-at-large, said the bakery and an affiliated company Baker Boys LLC of Pleasantville, both filed for Chapter 7. But before doing so, he leased their assets — including the right to keep using the name Formica — to an experienced food manufacturer who will keep the same employees working with no interruption in production or services, Formica said.

“I am out of ownership and cannot enjoy the profits of the business,” said Formica. “The only thing I may be able to do is be a consultant to the business under a managed fee.”

All assets from the leases will be distributed by U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Formica said.

Formica, re-elected last year in a surprisingly close election, announced he would run for state Assembly late last year but recently dropped out of the race, citing pending lawsuits related to the workplace accidents.

Formica said they were the only serious accidents in 98 years of history at the bakery, and that both employees had done things they were trained not to do — such as put their hands into equipment that hadn’t been properly shut down. But he felt they and the lawsuits could be used against the Republicans in this fall’s elections.

Three Atlantic County Democrats who ran unsuccessfully for freeholder seats last year — Celeste Fernandez, Maureen Leidy and Barbara Butterhof-Reault — criticized Formica and Freeholder James Bertino, the bakery manager, for the incidents.

The first workplace accident occurred Nov. 30, 2015, when employee Francis Carpinelli was using a bread-making machine that cuts dough into small, round shapes.

The machine did not come with a device to clean out the remnants of dough, so Carpinelli stuck his hand inside the machine to clean out the leftover dough and had it crushed, which led to the amputation of four fingers and part of his thumb, according to the lawsuit.

The second incident occurred on May 3, 2016.

Employee Dianna Trujillo, of Pleasantville, was in charge of removing dough from a mobile conveyor and putting it into pans.

The dough came out on two conveyors that were not attached to each other, according to the lawsuit. It would sometimes fall between the two conveyors, which then required employees to reach underneath and catch it.

Trujillo reached under the conveyor to grab dough that had fallen through and got her arm caught in a chain and sprocket. As a result of the incident, her arm was amputated below her elbow, according to the lawsuit.

Lawyers for the two did not respond to requests for information Monday about how the filing will affect their cases.

Formica said the cost of defending the lawsuits, along with increased insurance costs and an ongoing tough business climate, led to the bankruptcy.

“This area has never become healthy or whole,” after the recession of 2008, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the closing of five casinos in and around 2014, he said.

“I’m from the old school, we were persistent trying to make it work,” said Formica, “and we were definitely moving in the right direction.”

But he said he couldn’t afford to defend the two lawsuits, since they were filed in a way that put them outside of insurance coverage.

By filing Chapter 7, the lawsuits should be discharged, Formica said.

McKenna said he appreciates the uniqueness of Formica’s bread and will keep making it the same way.

“If it’s not made in Atlantic City, it’s not ‘Atlantic City bread’,” said McKenna. “I’m told it’s the water.”

Contact: 609-272-7219 Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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