Calise Bakery operates like an old-fashioned “baker’s bakery” with a heavy emphasis on food safety, production and distribution. However, it’s the Lincoln, RI-based company’s culture that drives every aspect of the business from its day-to-day customer service to all-about-tomorrow, noted Michael R. Calise, attorney and fourth-generation president of the family bakery that’s been around for more than 100 years.
From the first day on the job, Mr. Calise said, employees are taught about “the Calise Way,” which was initially inspired by his uncle, Michael R. Calise, who’s chairman of the company, and his father, Robert L. Calise, who serves as vice-chairman.
“The Calise Way is all about how important it is for us to make high-quality products and to focus on personal and food safety every day throughout the company,” Mr. Calise said. “It’s about how important customer service is for us — excellent and unprecedented customer service — and how it dictates our reputation in the industry and among our customers. It’s about making products at a price that is affordable and competitive in the marketplace.”
From a sales perspective, Mike. Pritchard, vice president of sales, describes it as being “the best vendor on the desk.”
“Meaning, we take care of our business and our customers,” he explained. “We don’t give them any problems. If there is an issue, we react quickly and resolve it and continue doing business. We take that to heart because that’s the Calise Way of doing business — being a partner with our customers. That’s how we built our reputation here in New England and beyond as we expanded over the years. As we say in Rhode Island, ‘We do the right thing.’ ”
Inside the bakery, Mr. Calise likes to take a hands-on approach along with a management team that includes his cousin, Michael C. Calise, a graduate of AIB International and vice president of operations, and another member of the fourth generation working with the company. Mike Jr., as they call him, works with the plant manager and the operations team to ensure that quality standards are met daily. He also contributes heavily to the research and development of new items for the market.
Other key members of the senior management team include Artin Taskin, chief financial officer, and Michele Newman, vice president of human resources.
The Calise Way took on more immediate importance shortly after the pandemic struck and created havoc in the market last year. To meet the surge for retail items, Calise Bakery cut SKUs and rebalanced its operations to account for the fluctuations in foodservice sales.
“Our ability to switch gears makes us different, and that’s helped us with COVID because we have been able to move resources and react a little bit quicker than other companies to fill our customers’ needs, especially during the panic-buying at the start,” Mr. Calise recalled. “We were able to focus on our core items, pump them out to the marketplace and make sure we had our brand on their shelves. I still have photos that show that we were often the only brand on the shelf.”
Overall, its Lincoln facility operates two roll lines and a single bread line with 50,000 square feet dedicated to processing; 12,000 square feet for packaging; 8,000 for warehousing; and 15,000 for offices and support departments.
Because the plant is landlocked, the company shifted distribution to a 24,000-square-foot center located 11 miles away in Providence. Several times a day, semi-trailers shuttle packaged bread and rolls for its DSD routes using a Pcdata logistics system. Additionally, the center serves as a hub where it exchanges products with other bakery partners and food distributors in the region.
In addition to streamlining shipping, the center allowed the company to streamline and maximize its production and packaging capacity without building a second bakery. A Just Foods ERP Microsoft Navision manages order entry, manufacturing, delivery and finance.
“What is unique about us is we still accept orders up to 3 p.m. for next-day delivery for our foodservice customers,” Mr. Calise said. “We’re one of the few companies our size operating this way.”
About 200 people work at the bakery with two shifts running five days a week and another shift working six days to meet customer demands.
Flour is delivered to two 110,000-lb silos that are part of a Gemini/KB System for bulk ingredient handling. Minor ingredients are hand-scaled using SG System batching and lot-tracking software.
Four Peerless 1,300-lb horizontal mixers supply the two roll and one bread line. One mixer provides backup or redundancy as well as the versatility to create Calise’s marble rye bread that combines a seeded rye with pumpernickel in one loaf.
Both flexible roll lines come with Adamatic dividers and makeup systems for creating a large swath of stamped and sheeted rolls.
Mr. Calise noted that bulkie rolls run the fastest at 45 strokes a minute on an 8-pocket system, or 21,600 an hour. Small sub rolls rely on an 8-pocket divider and larger sub rolls on a 4-pocket one at slower speeds.
Typically, the more dedicated line cranks out bulkie and top-selling items while the second roll line is reserved for shorter runs and more frequent changeovers. All rolls are currently produced on pans, although the oven loading systems also can handle hearth products.
After intermediate proofing, dough pieces on Line 1 travel to a Sasib (now Stewart Systems, a Middleby Bakery company) final proofer and a Sasib 100-foot indirect-fired tunnel oven.
On Line 2, rolls enter a Perfect Score proofer before baking in an MCS 100-foot indirect-fired tunnel oven. After 35 minutes traveling on G&F ambient spiral coolers, all products then head to three UBE baggers. The 6-, 8- and 12-pack bags then receive Kwik Lok closing and Mettler Toledo-Safeline metal detection.
Meanwhile, the bread line comes with a Glimek and Reiser Vemag divider, Dux rounder and Sticklebar moulder.
Both panned and hearth breads are made on this semi-automated line, which includes Pfening rack proofers, a Burford topper/seeder and a Sasib 80-foot indirect-fired tunnel oven.
Currently, loaves travel on an IJ White spiral cooler for 50 minutes, but the bakery is adding another system to extend it to 1.5 hours.
Afterward, the line uses an AMF Bakery Systems slicer for pan loaves and for creating half loaves with a splitter turner. It also uses a Bettendorf slicer for hearth breads. All loaves then receive Formost Fuji bagging before heading to Kwik Lok and Loma metal detection systems.
Mr. Calise noted the bakery has always been committed to food safety and quality, achieving HACCP certification in 2012 and current BRC-AA certification that dates to 2013.
Sanitation relies on Nexcor Technologies KLEANZ software, which has provided extra safety throughout the pandemic, while a maintenance program by MicroWest AMMS handles parts, inventory and preventive maintenance scheduling.
In addition to further investment in its DSD system, Calise Bakery is looking to expand geographically through a thaw-and-sell distribution program. However, DSD is the heart of the company’s customer service because it can control its own destiny.
“In the next five years, we want to strengthen our presence in the Northeast and beyond,” Mr. Calise explained. “We want to be a strong force along the East Coast and bring our brand to more customers so they can experience the Calise Way outside of Rhode Island, where we are famous for it.”
For Mr. Calise, maintaining the family culture, its work ethic and its passion for baking remain critical to its future success.
“I am extremely fortunate that working in this bakery is what I wanted to do since I was 10 or 12 years old and for the rest of my life,” he said. “Not many people can say they have that type of satisfaction in their career.”
Calise Bakery is forging ahead by making all the right moves and doing it their own way.