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January 6, 2021

Fast-growing Maine Crisp Co. expands with move to Winslow industrial building

Photo / Maureen Milliken Maine Crisp will consolidate its operations in an industrial building in Winslow that was most recently a building products wholesaler. The move will allow the fast-growing business to continue to expand and to stay in the Waterville area.

In six years, specialty food manufacturer Maine Crisp Co. has grown faster than the Aroostook County buckwheat that it uses to makes its product — from production in the home of Karen and Steve Getz, to leasing commercial and warehouse spaces, a national award and a distribution deal with Whole Foods.

Now Maine Crisp Co. is making its biggest move yet, to a 17,000-square-foot industrial building in Winslow that positions the company to expand 10-fold, the founders said.

In the immediate future, the capacity to expand is necessary to fulfill demand generated by the company's 46-store New England-wide distribution deal with Whole Foods Market, which began in October. But the move also poises Maine Crisp to keep growing, said Steve Getz, who's also also vice president of marketing.

The 50-year-old, two-story steel-frame building at 20 Lithgow St. was most recently home to Allsco Building Products, which closed two years ago. On the bank of the Kennebec River and close to U.S. Route 201, the building has three-phase power to accommodate higher loads, half a dozen loading docks, expansive storage space, office space and a front lobby for visitors and on-site retail.

Getz said the new space checks off two big requirements — it provides the kind of space the company needs and also allows it to stay in the Waterville area.

"It offers the scaffolding to sustain our growth trajectory and ambitious distribution targets,” said Getz. “We are thrilled to have found a space that allows us to continue growing in central Maine, a region that has supported us from the beginning, when we graduated from home kitchen to industrial facility.”

Since 2017, Maine Crisp had been in 2,500 square feet at 10 Railroad Square in Waterville, a mixed-use complex that has a variety of tenants including Grand Central Cafe, Patkus Guitars, Remedy Salon & Spa, several medical practices and more. The company also leased 3,500 square feet of warehouse space in nearby Benton. With the move, all the company's operations will be consolidated into one space.

Maine Crisp CEO Michael Ross bought the building at 20 Lithgow St. building from the Canadian owners of Allsco in December for $457,000. The broker/agent was Gregg Perkins of Affiliated Realty. Ross will lease the space to Maine Crisp through a real estate LLC.

Maine Crisp plans to move all operations there in May, combining manufacturing, packaging and warehousing under one roof.

For the time being, McCormack Lumber, 8 Lithgow St., will continue to lease storage space in the building as it rebuilds from an October 2019 fire.

Waterville architect Jim Shipsky is designing the space, and Maine Crisp is working with the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership to design a layout that will work well with its current production but also be flexible enough to handle projected increased demand and growth.

The space needs includes a required FDA-approved gluten-free dedicated area that meets regulatory guidelines to maintain the company’s non-GMO, allergen and kosher certifications. The renovation will include 2,800 square feet of FDA-compliant food commercial production space, as well as ingredient storage, facilities for staff, renovated office space and warehouse space for packaging and finished goods.

Claire Getz, daughter of the founders and manager of product quality control, said that working with MEP has been "a fantastic experience."

"We are building a production flow that is flexible enough to support us for years,” she said. “The MEP consultants’ deep multi-faceted expertise makes them invaluable partners as we face the exciting challenges of scaling up while maintaining our artisanal quality.”

a long row of connected buildings with a large two story orange one at the front and a variety of styles and different colors behind it
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Maine Crisp will move from the multi-use complex at Railroad Square in Waterville to an industrial building in Winslow, where it will consolidate its operations as the business expands.

Local focus continues

The expansion of company's manufacturing capacity is expected to triple its 14-person staff within the next three years, Steve Getz said. The "diverse mix of jobs" created will include production jobs like bulk ingredient receipt and inventory, manufacturing, packaging and finished goods inventory, as well as office jobs including marketing, logistics and management.

Karen Getz was an award-winning cheesemaker when the family moved to Maine several years ago to take advantage of Aroostook County buckwheat production. Buckwheat is the primary ingredient of the crisps, and the company still sources it from Aroostook County, and also obtains other ingredients locally.

The company started in the Getz kitchen in 2014, but with support from co-ops and natural food markets, Karen Getz pursued external funding through Slow Money Maine and Coastal Enterprises Inc., which sparked the move to Railroad Square in 2017.

Karen's Cranberry Almond Crisps nabbed a national Sofi Award from the Specialty Food Association in 2018. Ross joined as CEO two years ago, and he and Steve Getz raised the capital expand and hire more staff, including both Getz daughters, Claire and Rachel Getz.

The local focus is part of their business plan in general. Maine Crisp Co. works with Lewiston-based branding and marketing firm Anchour, and Kennebec Savings Bank is financing the move to Winslow.

Besides Whole Foods, Maine Crisp products are available in Maine Hannaford stores, a variety of specialty shops and online.

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January 7, 2021

Congrats to all at Maine Crisp! So pleased to see a local business growing and investing here in mid-Maine. This is just one more step and piece of the economic rejuvenation for the greater Waterville area that has been happening over the last few years. Very thankful for companies like Maine Crisp being committed to grow their business locally! Gregg Perkins - Affiliated Realty

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