Small-scale processors bet on big future
Pair of companies to expand with shared, renovated warehouse
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- At a time when some food processing companies in the region are closing plants or merging, two Salem companies are expanding.
Organic Fresh Fingers and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks are moving to a South Salem warehouse that triples their production capacity and does it in an energy-efficient manner.
"We are currently operating out of a 2,000-square-foot space, and are bursting at the seams," said Evann Remington, president and CEO of Organic Fresh Fingers. The move "will allow us to fulfill increasing requests for our products," she said.
Organic Fresh Fingers provides organic meals to schools and corporate child care facilities. It buys ingredients from local farmers.
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, one of the largest artisan cider producers in the U.S., also is operating in cramped quarters, according to company leaders.
The move from its West Salem plant to the South Salem warehouse also triples its production area.
The company moves are being aided by Wildwood Inc., a Salem-based sustainable planning and development company. Wildwood owns the warehouse and is helping coordinate the move.
The companies are the first to be awarded funds under a new Salem urban renewal loan program. The Fairview Urban Renewal Area Small Business Pilot Loan Program offers low interest rates, deferred payments and up to 70 percent loan forgiveness.
The warehouse conversion includes renovating the building to "food grade" specifications and installing a solar photovoltaic system to help meet energy needs.
Remington, president and CEO of Organic Fresh Fingers, said she started Organic Fresh Fingers in 2007 in a 1,460-square-foot kitchen.
"I couldn't have hoped for faster growth than what Organic Fresh Fingers has experienced," she said.
James Kohn of Wandering Aengus Ciderworks said the company, which started in 2004, was looking to expand either into Hood River, Portland or Salem.
The loan program made it possible to stay in Salem, Kohn said.
"Salem is a one-of-a-kind location for a ciderhouse," Kohn said. "We have easy access to the best apple growing regions in the world, are in the center of an acclaimed wine growing region, with all the support services needed to craft, store and transport high-quality cider worldwide."
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks owns a 12-acre apple orchard in Ashland, a 5-acre orchard in Salem and contracts for apples.
The company produced 70,000 gallons of artisan cider last year. Its nationwide shipments are concentrated primarily on the West Coast.