Crossroads of America
Simultaneously starting up a company and a bakery from scratch requires a seasoned management team and a solid strategic plan. Along with Jim Little, vice-president of innovation and quality, Mr. Hamade, Mr. Zakian and Mr. D’Onofrio have more than 120 years of experience in the baking industry, working at such companies as Otis Spunkmeyer, Vie de France, J&J Snack Foods, ConAgra Foods and Ralcorp, Corner Bakery, and Puratos, just to name a few.
“There have been a lot of moving parts all at once,” Mr. Hamade said. “However, our experience has allowed us to fast-track this project. We were able to choose from the best of the best when it came to construction, equipment, our business processes and our people.”
It also requires a game plan. Working with equity partners from Dallas, Mr. Hamade and Mr. Zakian formed Specialty Bakery in 2013 and began searching for the ideal location that they could call home.
“Indianapolis is the crossroads of America,” Mr. Hamade explained. “In a one-day drive, you can be within 80% of the US population. For a start-up company, we couldn’t pick a more ideal location than Indianapolis. There is a strong pro-business environment here with state and local government. That had some influence on our thinking, particularly being on this site.”
In many ways, he added, it seemed like only yesterday that they were staring out of an office across the road from where the bakery now stands, watching the snow fall during a cold, blustery day in February 2014, making preparations and wondering when the weather would break so they could ramp up construction on their ambitious project. Eventually it did, on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.
Within nine months, Specialty Bakery began production on its frozen dough bread line in November, followed by the frozen cookie dough operation in December and the baked flatbread line in January 2015.
“It was all hands on deck,” Mr. Hamade said. “We had a very tightly integrated plan with our building and equipment vendors, and we had one integrated project timeline that we followed.”