5th-generation baker hopes to keep growing business in McKees Rocks
A fifth-generation baker said he might move his growing company from its legacy home in McKees Rocks if another town can offer more space and amenities.
“My personal investment in this community is pretty great, so it's going to have to be some compelling reasons for me (to leave),” said Scott Baker, founder of 5 Generation Bakers, a company he founded in 2009 that makes frozen breads for the wholesale market under the Jenny Lee brand that Baker's grandfather started in 1938.
The products are carried in 2,500 retail outlets in 18 states, including Giant Eagle, Shop 'n Save and Kuhn's grocery stores.
5 Generation Bakers operates in four connected buildings in McKees Rocks, but the space no longer is sufficient, Baker said.
He wants to relocate from that space along Island Avenue, leased from Emsworth-based Trinity Commercial Development LLC, to a building that would be nearly twice as big and more efficient. Baker said he hopes to start construction late this year on a new site, and McKees Rocks leaders are working to keep the bakery in the borough.
Locations being considered include McKees Rocks, Neville Island, Warrendale, Zelienople, Cranberry and in Ohio.
Baker said The Austin Co., a Cleveland-based design and engineering firm that he hired, has been successful in working out economic development deals with Ohio government agencies.
Baker's grandfather, Paul Baker, founded Jenny Lee Bakery in 1938 as a retail and wholesale business. Paul Baker's father, grandfather and uncles also were bakers.
Jenny Lee products began to be produced in the McKees Rocks location in 1941, but after a devastating fire in 2006 and the economic downturn the business closed in 2008.
Scott Baker resurrected the Jenny Lee brand name in 2009 and started his business from the old Jenny Lee factory, but he runs 5 Generation Bakers differently. The company doesn't sell Jenny Lee's iconic cinnamon swirl bread at retail, nor does it do its own distribution.
Baker started 5 Generation with two employees, and there now are 28 employees, he said.
The McKees Rocks Community Development Corp. is trying to keep the business there, said Taris Vrcek, the corporation's executive director.
“Obviously, our priority would be to keep 5 Generation Bakers here, a company that's been with us for over 70 years and really is an iconic business in the Pittsburgh region that's been part of our family,” Vrcek said.
A former steel mill town, McKees Rocks is undergoing an economic revitalization so space is being developed that would meet 5 Generation's needs, he said.
One option is the 40-acre Rocks Industrial/Logistics Park that Trinity Commercial Development is building behind 5 Generation's current site.
Land will be ready for construction there in the spring, and the park offers a 10-year property tax abatement. Baker's company is responsible for paying property taxes on its leased space now, said Craig Rippole, a principal at Trinity.
Vrcek cited as advantages are the site's close proximity to Route 51 and major highways as well as the impending arrival of CSX Corp., which plans to break ground in 2015 on a $50 million facility to handle rail and truck cargo at the former maintenance yard for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad in McKees Rocks.
“Having that CSX development coming and having that type of intermodal transportation facility right next door to business is very attractive,” he said.
McKees Rocks offers advantages such as high-quality water, critical to bakery operations, and great employees who might not be able to move with the company, said Baker, who also is vice president of the community development corporation.
“Obviously, I'm a businessman first, so I want to explore all my options,” he said.