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Pittsfield pizza bakery Rustic Crust ready to rebuild after fire

Union Leader Correspondent

August 10. 2014 8:29PM
Rustic Crust CEO Brad Sterl, standing on the site where the bakery burned in March, said construction efforts on a new, larger building are expected to begin this week and be completed by late October. (RYAN O'CONNOR/Union Leader Correspondent)

PITTSFIELD — When the Rustic Crust bakery burned down in March, the company’s CEO Brad Sterl made a decision to put every effort into rebuilding in town.

Despite some hurdles that almost forced him to look outside of Pittsfield, he said he’s excited to break ground this Thursday on a new 27,000-square-foot facility at the site of the old bakery.

“For me, it was about keeping our employees close to their jobs,” Sterl said. “When you started looking at where the people travel to, you know, there were a few buildings in Concord we could have purchased, but stretching people out, how many of them would have wanted to travel that far?”

Sterl also thought about the benefit to Pittsfield.

“If we’re able to make things work for the community, you know, 120 people working here on a regular basis, whether they live in town or not, they’re buying gas they’re eating here. There’s an economic benefit for the town,” he said. “The way I looked at it, the town’s treated us well in the process of trying to rebuild. There’s been a few hiccups that could have caused us to go somewhere else, but the town addressed them ... and it made sense for us. It’s good for everybody.”

Still, Sterl said the last five months have presented some challenges.

Within a month of the fire, Rustic Crust constructed a temporary bakery within its 65,000-square-foot Main Street warehouse, a feat in and of itself. Yet with the limited space, Sterl said his company had to hire about 20 temporary workers to help close the production gap.

“We really haven’t been able to catch up yet. That’s why it’s critical that we have this (new) operation up and running by the end of October because as business ramps up, we won’t be able to keep up with demand,” he said. “The timing is really critical on this. If anything was to hold this up, it would have a catastrophic effect on the business and its growth.”

For the time being, the company has been able to hold its head above water.

“We really didn’t lose any customers that we’re aware of at this time,” Sterl said. “We kind of hit the market just as everybody was actually running out on the shelf, so to speak, and we were able to start stocking everything up again.”

Sterl, who paid his employees between the fire and the temporary bakery being constructed, said his workers have continued to thrive as the company recovers and rebuilds.

“The employees are happy, they’re working 50 to 60 hours a week ... so they’re all getting overtime, very consistent overtime, just trying to keep up with the status quo of the orders,” Sterl said. “Some of the (temporary workers) might end up getting on the payroll full-time, but they’re temporary in that they’re still working 30 to 40 hours a week right now, but we’ll have to see how things transition as we get into the new facility.

“A lot of the inefficiencies in the temporary facility are being addressed by people, instead of a conveyor or a machine to help move the product somewhere, so that’s really where we’ve filled in the gaps,” he said.

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