Founded as Tennessee Bun Co. in 1996 by Cordia and Tom Harrington, Nashville, Tenn.-based The Bakery Cos. is not new. However, the pace at which this producer of bread, buns and other sweet goods has evolved might make an onlooker’s head spin.
Over the course of the company’s lifetime, it has made several bold moves, often in small timeframes. In its first year, the bakery housed one high-speed line that produced 1,000 buns per minute. Today, the company has seven lines and makes more than eight million pieces a day.
The Harringtons’ acquisitions of Nashville Bun Co. in 1999 and Cold Storage of Nashville six years later led to their frozen dough line, Cornerstone Frozen, selling biscuit and dough pucks to food service customers. Next, they acquired Masada Bakery, an Atlanta-based producer of bagels, bread and buns, in 2014. Just a year later, recognizing they had become more than a “bun company,” the Harringtons rolled their acquired businesses into a new company: The Bakery Cos.
Today, the company is moving like a bullet toward the future.
“Cordia has a clear vision of what she wants the company to be and where she wants it to go,” said Marshall Maddox, chief product officer, The Bakery Cos., and Baking & Snack’s 2019 Operations Executive of the Year.
As a supplier of baked foods for food service, private label and retail customers, speed always has been at the forefront of the business.
“We have won new business just by the fact that we’re able to call a customer back quickly and have an answer,” Mr. Maddox said. “You have to believe that if they’re calling you with a question, you’re not the only one they’re calling. Every call is a legitimate opportunity. And Cordia’s philosophy is quickly respond to the customer and build a partnership that both sides can enjoy.”
The next long-lasting partnership — and instance of rapid growth — happened earlier this year with the announcement that Arbor Investments, a leader in food private equity, along with industry veterans George and Yianny Caparos, will recapitalize the company.
With this new alliance, The Bakery Cos. is expected to grow through acquisition and new lines.
“Growth enables us to keep the leadership motivated and challenged and enables us to serve our growing customers,” Ms. Harrington said.
Ms. Harrington noted that the entire process — from the first discussions through due diligence to the formal announcement — took just 67 days.
“When I met Greg [Purcell] from Arbor, we were initially talking philosophically about what the industry needs and how quickly it needs it,” Ms. Harrington recalled. “We were perfectly aligned in what we believe needed to happen.”
Mr. Purcell, Arbor’s co-founder and c.e.o., called the collaboration “a perfect fit.”
The Caparos’ relationship with Arbor Investments dates back more than a decade. The brothers acquired Gold Standard Baking, Chicago, from East Balt in 2002, growing the business into a strong regional bakery.
"Cordia’s philosophy is quickly respond to the customer and build a partnership that both sides can enjoy."
Marshall Maddox, chief product officer, The Bakery Cos.
In 2008, Arbor acquired a controlling interest in Gold Standard and then sold the bakery to private equity firm Parallel49 Equity (previously TriCor Pacific Capital) in 2015.
And their friendship with Ms. Harrington goes back even further.
“My brother and I have known and admired Cordia for decades,” said Yianny Caparos, who will serve as president of The Bakery Cos. “We have tremendous respect for the business she has built and are thrilled to collaborate and invest with her and her outstanding team. As we enter our third partnership with Arbor, we’re eager to continue growing The Bakery Cos., bringing new ideas and innovation to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers.”
Ms. Harrington said the recapitalization and projected growth will not only meet today’s rapidly evolving consumer lifestyles and customer demands, but it will create solutions to the industry’s shrinking workforce.
“The bottom line is that you can’t keep people energized and you can’t meet customers’ changing needs without growing new capabilities and creating new opportunities for your talent,” she said. “Just look at Marshall. If we had been satisfied with where we were five years ago, we could have done that … there was nothing wrong with where we were. But we had the drive to do better, be better and do more, and that’s what attracted him. Marshall is top talent, and we couldn’t have attracted him if we were going to just stand still. It’s a lot more fun to grow.”
With several milestones and unprecedented growth, The Bakery Cos. is not just keeping up with change in the industry. It’s also setting the pace.
“We all have the ability to change the course, from the way we train people to the new products we can develop,” Ms. Harrington said at a recent American Bakers Association event. “Our future — just the next 10 years — will bring incredible changes in our industry. Let’s think big because there is a bright, bold future ahead.”