Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

News

March 13, 2014

Stapp's zoo, conveyor to close

GREENSBURG — Stapp’s Circle S Ranch, a popular local petting zoo, is closing because because of the financial difficulties of its parent company, Custom Conveyor.

James Stapp, who owns the nonprofit zoo and the business, which installs conveyor systems in factories around the world, said the decision to close has been forced upon him by a customer who has refused to pay him a debt of millions of dollars.

Stapp, 69, has owned the business for 33 years. His frustration, anger and sadness about the situation was clear when he spoke with the Daily News by phone Wednesday afternoon.

“I feel like I’m going through hell,” Stapp said. “I’ve never encountered anything like this.”

Custom Conveyor, about five miles east of Greensburg on State Road 46, used to employ more than 100, but only about 20 employees are left.

Some of them have worked with the company for 30 years, Stapp said.

“They’re very, very good people,” he said.

And for Stapp, the business has deep family roots. Both of his parents have worked there, so have his wife and some of his five sons.

The company has installed conveyor systems as close as Honda’s manufacturing plant in Greensburg and as far as Venezuela and South Africa.

But a large customer who owes Custom Conveyor millions of dollars is refusing to pay, Stapp said, and he cannot continue the business without those millions.

That also means that the petting zoo that is part of the company’s 17-acre complex will have to close. Stapp said that while the zoo’s attendance has increased over the years — about 10,000 people visited last year — it cannot operate without financial assistance from Custom Conveyor.

The zoo began about 15 years ago with some exotic sheep and longhorn cattle. Over the years, Stapp and his wife, Theresa, added llamas, exotic birds, bison, impala, elk, wolves, bears and exotic cats.

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