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A Brooklyn Cherry Magnate Killed Himself After Police Discovered a Pot Farm in His Factory

The factory's new owners insist it will stay open and continue supplying restaurants with their legit product.

by Allie Conti
02 March 2015, 6:00am

Photo via Flickr user WindyWinters

Dell's Maraschino Cherries is a nondescript brick warehouse on Dikeman Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It's one of those quiet buildings you'd walk by every day without noticing; the only way some neighbours know Dell's there is because of the viscous syrup that leaks down the sidewalk and into the gutter, which has historically caused neighbourhood bees to turn the colour of cough syrup.

After the recession, the business was veering dangerously toward the red. But instead of throwing in the towel, 57-year-old owner Arthur Mondella invested $5 million over the course of five years, which ultimately meant he could churn out twice as much fruit. To celebrate, according to a press release from last October, Dell's came out with a new logo, label and website—all intended to reflect "the many recent changes the company has undergone and its vision for the future."

"We felt we had to do something to kick-start sales," Mondella told the Daily News about his company's reinvention in November. "We are looking to get our name out there to show people it's a different company."

On Tuesday, police found out just how different the Dell's of today was from the factory Mondella's grandfather and father founded in 1948. Officers had obtained a warrant to look for evidence that he was polluting the water in Red Hook. But they found a shady-looking set of shelves held together by magnets and detected the smell of weed.

Mondella promptly excused himself to the bathroom, where, after screaming "Take care of my kids!" to his sister, he shot himself. He left behind a community of bewildered Brooklynites, three daughters, and up to 1,200 pot plants.

On Friday, Crain's reported that Mondella's sister has announced the factory will continue to supply restaurants like TGI Friday's, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster with cherries. Mondella's mother was apparently working on a computer and smoking cigarettes when a reporter from the outlet arrived at Dikeman Street.

Police still don't know who else had access to the 50-foot-by-50-foot area that held the marijuana plants, as well as 120 grow lamps and 60 different strains of seeds. "In theory it could have been him and outsiders," one source told the Daily News."This is a secreted part of a large factory that was designed so a large number of employees won't know."

Although it's unclear who was helping Mondella package and sell the pot, the New York Times noted that the growing area contained a copy of "The Encyclopedia of Organized Crime."

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