PITTSFIELD — For Brad Sterl and the team at Rustic Crust, the mission is to put “real food” on the tables of families nationwide. The company, which has grown to claim it's one of the largest frozen pizza crust manufacturers in the country, makes all-organic products — handmade at its Pittsfield plant.
Sterl says for him, real food can be defined as food made the way it was intended to be. That means no additives, no preservatives and nothing genetically engineered. What ends up in the pizza boxes the company sends to supermarkets in all 50 states is full of ingredients grown and assembled locally.
“Our process takes us longer to make our products,” Sterl said. “We are not the fastest, and we won't try to be the fastest because it takes a certain amount of time to make good food. They taste better, and they're better for you.”
As a small business aimed at creating jobs locally, Rustic Crust, which also produces the American Flatbread brand of frozen pizza, was one of four winners in a national video contest sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Sterl said the company had received an investment supported by the SBA aimed at helping job creation in low-income areas, such as Pittsfield.
In 2005, Sterl said, the company had eight employees. There are now more than 60, and Sterl said more expansion is coming. His SBA video was targeted toward showing how the federal small-business assistance agency can be helpful for companies like his in challenged areas like Pittsfield.
“When I started the company, Pittsfield happened to be the town that I chose for a few reasons,” Sterl said. “It was an area that had an acceptable work force and an area that needed jobs.”
The company evolved from a New England-based restaurant chain Sterl was a partner in, the former Foodee's pizza parlors.
Sterl said the restaurant was on the cutting edge of using organic products, and the crust company evolved from the ideology that developed at Foodee's.
As an unassuming New Hampshire town, Pittsfield may not appear to a visitor as the home of one of the faster-growing companies in the country.
But Sterl said he wouldn't have it any other way.
“The company is here because I like to live here,” Sterl said.
“I think New Hampshire is a wonderful place to raise your family and a great place to live.”
And with each crust that exits the Pittsfield plant, Sterl said his goal is that a family or group of friends will come together and bond over turning it into a pizza.
“It's all about bringing your family together,” he said.
“Bringing people around the table and getting them to participate.”