In the early 1960s, Ridgewood, in the borough of Queens, N.Y., had nearly 50 bakeries. Today, only four bakeries are operating. In 2009, family-owned and -operated Grimaldi Baking will celebrate its 100th anniversary. And the fourth-generation company still has its three business legs and 36,000 sq. ft. planted firmly in its New York neighborhood.
Recently, the Grimaldi family, who estimate that company sales have been growing between 7 percent and 10 percent per year, re-confirmed their commitment to Ridgewood. They recently rebuilt their entire bakery facility from the ground up to improve production efficiencies and conserve energy. Bread production never stopped, and though the retail store was officially “closed” for 12 days to allow for renovations, the company still sold its loaves and rolls through a window.
This was the fifth build-out of the facility since the Grimaldis bought it in 1979. Originally, the space was 27,000 sq. ft.
Founded in 1909 by Sicilian-born Vito Grimaldi, the bakery began as a tiny wholesale-only hearth operation in Brooklyn. Son Joseph joined the business, and the two worked 14-hour days turning out breads and delivering them by horse-drawn wagon.
Following in the family tradition, Joseph's son Vito learned the trade from his father and, in 1969, moved into a 2,000-sq.-ft. building with a retail store. Ten years later, Grimaldi's Baking relocated to its present site.
Today, Vito remains C.E.O. of the company, while the next generation handles its operations and continued growth. His son Joseph is president, daughters Angela Cammarano and Margherita Anobile are vice president and secretary, respectively, and Joseph's wife Lucy is treasurer. Margherita's husband Joseph Anobile is C.O.O.
Vital three legs
Retail, wholesale direct store delivery (DSD) and out-of-town (OOT) delivery are the three legs that keep the $15 million operation in production seven days a week, 365 days a year, says Joseph Grimaldi. Grimaldi's Home of Bread (HOB), the full-line retail store, accounts for less than 10 percent of the company's total revenues.
The bread-only DSD and OOT divisions account for the balance of sales. The company does not break out sales for each of these divisions individually. Instead, both are simply categorized as “wholesale.”
Grimaldi's DSD division serves about 2,000 customers on 49 routes (each averages 80 miles a night) within the metropolitan New York area. The company owns two trucks; the rest are independently owned and carry signage provided by Grimaldi's. Hearthland Baking, Grimaldi's OOT component, began in the mid-1990s and produces par-baked and thaw-and-serve breads and rolls for customers nationwide.
Of the facility's total 36,000 sq. ft., 34,325 are dedicated to bread baking, 1,000 to pastry production and 675 to the retail store. Five production lines, one high-speed, one low-speed, one dedicated to bagels and two to hand-crafted loaves turn out more than 200 varieties of breads and rolls, with at least 100 kinds produced each day.
To keep its two silos filled, 150,000 lbs. of custom-milled, high-gluten flour are delivered every two days. All of the bread items undergo a 12-hour fermentation on peels covered with corn cones instead of cornmeal to facilitate better airflow to the bottoms of the loaves during the retarding process.
Bread products are slow-baked under steam in custom-fabricated hearth ovens. Two continuous spiral cooling towers carry rolls to the packing area.
Two products for which Grimaldi's is particularly well known are its Kaiser rolls and hero sandwich loaves, both of which are made on the high-speed line. The automated line, which has a six-pocket divider/rounder, was installed at the bakery about two years ago, and upgraded after a year to increase throughput by 20 percent.
Grimaldi's proofs its Kaiser rolls facedown in the traditional manner to “hold the five cuts, protect them from blanking out and protect the face from skinning,” says John Quinterno, the company's OOT director. The rolls are automatically flipped as they enter the oven.
Hero loaves are the hero
Hero loaves, from 8 ins. to 16 ins., make up about 40 percent of DSD sales and are produced at a rate of 7,500 to 14,000 per hour, depending on size, Quinterno says. The best seller is the 10-in., which many New York delis use to make submarine sandwiches. Most days, the bakery runs hero breads for two to three hours.
Like all of Grimaldi's breads, the heroes are hand-docked. “We dock them at an angle for better bloom,” Quinterno explains.
SuperHero loaves, offered in 3-ft. and 6-ft. sizes and weighing 1 lb. per foot; and SuperHero rings, 18 ins. and 3.5 lbs., are ideal for catering sandwiches and tailgate party applications. The bakery makes a mile of the SuperHero loaves and rings every day, which it then ships to customers in 34 states. “We're the nation's largest manufacturer of SuperHero sandwich loaves and rings,” he notes.
One value-point innovation is the “two-fer,” two 7-oz. French loaves that are stuck together during shaping to produce two attached breads, creating two breads for the price of one. The poly-bagged product is generally sold to DSD grocery stores.
Sixteen varieties of crusty New York-style bagels are available to wholesale customers. Six are offered in the retail store.
The company employs 150 people, including truck drivers and customer service associates, and operates three rolling shifts. Twelve in-house-trained specialists hand craft more than 120 varieties of breads and rolls — including twisted, braided and knotted varieties, egg-onion pockets and Portuguese rolls — on two dedicated lines.
Among the loaves made on these lines is the hard-crusted Napoli, which is made using the same formula and techniques, including weighing the dough on balance beam scales, that company founder Vito Grimaldi used in 1909. Napoli loaves are mixed in small batches — about 100 loaves at a time. They are baked for about an hour at a lower-than-normal temperature without steam in an old-fashioned, radiating heat, stone and brick, three-deck stepped tunnel oven.
Tuscan loaves, basic bread made from highly hydrated dough to produce a crumb with large holes, are cut and shaped by machine, then finished by hand.
Pastry for retail only
More than 30 types of pastries are baked solely for retail and account for between 2 percent and 3 percent of Grimaldi's HOB's retail sales. Three employees, including a master pastry chef who has been with the company for more than 20 years, are dedicated to sweets.
Between 20 percent and 25 percent of pastry sales come from handmade butter, vanilla and Italian cookies. Two 6-ft., five-shelf cookie towers, specially designed by Joseph Grimaldi and his father Vito, display dozens of cookie variations, such as round, finger and S-shaped; plain and filled; each topped with different colored sprinkles. Each shelf holds two 18-in. pans of cookies.
The rest of the pastries are displayed in three refrigerated showcases totaling 72 sq. ft. Breakfast pastries account for another 20 percent of sweet sales.
Cupcakes also are among the top-selling pastries. Members of Grimaldi's six-person “Cupcake Crew” are free to dream up their own decorations and often challenge one another's creativity with friendly competitions.
Cannoli, available in 4-oz. and mini 2-oz. sizes, are filled to order by counter personnel. “Mini pastries have become increasingly popular over the past 12 years,” Quinterno says.
Currently, the bakery is operating at about 80 percent of capacity. But, Grimaldi points out, “we are always in expansion mode, which makes us even more thoughtful as to where we place each piece of equipment and how efficiently we run.”
Grimaldi's Home of Bread
….at a glance
Location: Ridgewood, N.Y.
Web site: www.grimaldibakery.com
Primary business: specialty wholesale bread
Market served: metropolitan New York (frozen nationwide)
Number of locations: 1
Annual sales: $15 million
Product line: breads and pastries
Facility size: 36,000 sq. ft.
Production methods: scratch
Major equipment: horizontal, spiral and vertical mixers; bulk flour system; water control system; high-speed roll and hero line; medium-speed bread line; multi-bank bagel line; Tuscan bread line; reversible sheeter; double rack, triple-stepped tunnel and straight tunnel ovens; proofer; retarders; spiral cooling towers; overhead conveyors; auto-counter/cartoner; in-line slicer/slabber; auto-bagging system; auto and semi-auto sealer/coder; freezers; refrigerators; refrigerated showcases; refrigerated prep table.
Key personnel titles: Vito Grimaldi, C.E.O.; Joseph Grimaldi, president; Joseph Anobile, C.O.O.; Angela Cammarano, vice president; Margherita Anobile, secretary; Lucy Grimaldi, treasurer.
Future plans: added IT staff to further integrate computer and production operations, added fine dining specialists to DSD sales team to help customers differentiate themselves.
Going green saves green
During the past seven years, Grimaldi's Baking has reduced its organic, paper and energy waste output by more than 90 percent and waste pick-up bills by thousands of dollars per month. The company also has cut its overall fuel usage by more than 25 percent. And Grimaldi executives attribute their ability to save so much money to being green.
The bakery began its green imitative when it analyzed every step of the operation to identify waste in every form — over-production in make-up; bad batching; misproofs; misbakes; loss and damage in conveying, cooling, packing, shipping and storage; and scrap, tailing and sweeping. By controlling these parameters, the bakery brought its waste down from 10 3-cubic-yard containers emptied five times a week to two 3-cubic-yard containers emptied twice a week.
Two years ago, the bakery reduced its waste even further when it installed the $50,000 BioX system. The system uses enzymes and benign bacteria to convert waste dough into liquid that is flushed down the drain. It eliminated even more scrap dough, tailings and sweepings without the double and triple handling associated with scooping, shoveling and carting the dough around the facility. Waste cornmeal that is not BioX'd is sent to a firm that makes animal feed.
Corrugated boxes for wholesale deliveries are made from 30 percent post-consumer paper and are designed to be used at least three or four times each.
Green also was the focus of a recent ground-up reconstruction of the bakery's building. Bricks, window glazing and reflective roofing materials were chosen specifically for their insulation properties. Windows and skylights provide natural light. The building also was rewired for most efficient use of electricity. In the retail store, lighting was switched from traditional incandescent bulbs to more energy-efficient compact fluorescents.
During the 18-month reconstruction project, the bakery also reviewed, revamped and replaced equipment. Ovens have dual-fuel capability, with the ability to run on either gas or oil as market prices fluctuate. Steam recycled from ovens and proofers passes through condensers and is pumped back into the boilers.
All production lines, conveyors and handling equipment have been retrofitted with high efficiency motors. Freezer compressors and coils also have been green upgraded.
On the distribution side, company trucks are now powered by diesel fuel rather than by gasoline. The new vehicles get 25 miles per gallon in city traffic. Recently, a truck fueled by E85 ethanol was added, and Grimaldi's is currently exploring hybrid, compressed natural gas (CNG), hydrogen and plug-in electric alternatives.
“Green can definitely be profitable,” says Joseph Grimaldi, company president. “It definitely has been for us.”
Grimaldi's Home of Bread
….a sampling of retail prices
|Hero, 5 ozs.||$0.75|
|Semolina hero, 5 ozs.||$0.85|
|Italian/French bread, 8 ozs.||$1.35|
|Semolina bread, 8 ozs.||$1.50|
|Napoli bread, 32 ozs.||$3.25|
|Semolina round bread, 16 ozs.||$2.80|
|Tuscan bread, 8 ozs.||$1.35|
|Kaiser roll, 2.75 ozs.||$0.45|
|Bagel, 4.25 ozs||$0.59 to $0.69|
|Apple turnover, 5.50 ozs.||$1.50|
|Butter cookie, each.||$0.50 to $1.25|
|Danish, 5 ozs.||$1.50|
|Muffin, 7 ozs.||$1.65|
|Cannoli, 4 ozs.||$2.50|