Side Dishes: Baking giant plans an $8 million expansion
Fifteen years ago, Norwich’s King Arthur Flour had just five employees. Now, a staff of 250 tends to a robust mail-order business, education center and perpetually bustling crowds in the company’s retail store. During foliage season, the crowds can get so thick that you bump elbows as you reach for samples.
Those 250,000 annual visitors — many of them from other states or countries — are becoming such a load that, on June 15, KAF will break ground on an expansion to give more breathing room to instructors, bakers and tourists alike.
“We’ve been working on [the plans] for a year and a half,” says Carey Clifford, assistant to KAF’s president. “It’s been on everyone’s minds for longer than that. After the last holiday season, we knew we had to get a move on.”
The expansion will add one classroom to KAF’s baking-education center; open a view to the bakery, so visitors can peer in on the process; expand retail space; make possible a second baking shift (so fresh breads appear twice a day); and enlarge the café to 75 seats and a seasonal outdoor deck. There, diners can nosh on the sandwiches, soups, pizzas and pastries that now often sell out during the day. The entire project is expected to cost between $8 and $10 million and reach completion by next July.
A less showy but key part of the project, says Clifford, is signage that will outline the company’s history, its products and how they’re made. “People come here from all over. It’s really a mecca for baking, and they want to soak it all in,” she says.