Emmy’s Organics, an Ithaca food manufacturer whose snacks can be found on shelves all around the country, is expanding after purchasing a new building in Dryden, allowing it to bring in-house production back to Tompkins County.
Emmy’s is well-known for its certified organic, non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and kosher coconut-based cookies, which are sold at major retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada like Wegmans, Whole Foods, CVS and Rite Aid.
The new building, located at 15 Royal Rd. in Dryden, is Emmy’s first purchased building, marking the substantial growth Emmy’s has experienced in less than a decade.
Founders Samantha Abrams and Ian Gaffney started the company in 2009. Gaffney has gluten-free dietary restrictions, but at the time, there wasn’t much for him to eat that was also healthy.
“Especially back then, all of the gluten-free treats and products that you can find had a lot of fillers and artificial ingredients,” Abrams said.
So, the two set out to create something that didn’t have any of that and instead provided a delicious, gluten-free snack for Gaffney to enjoy.
“[Ian] actually developed the original coconut cookie recipe really out of a need for himself,” Abrams said. “He taught me how to make the recipe one night, and we just quickly realized that this was something that was really unique.”
After that discovery, what started as a fun side project soon turned into a bigger operation. The two made more cookies, packaged them and sold them at the farmer’s market. Their cookies were a hit, selling out quickly. When it came time to create Emmy’s, they named it after Ian’s mom, who still lets them monopolize her kitchen in exchange for a tray of treats, according to Emmy’s website.
Emmy’s has only grown since then, but, as Abrams tells it, they were growing out of their previous building.
“We’re very limited because of the amount of space that we have,” Abrams said. “We’ve actually had to use some out-of-state co-manufacturers to help us with the product that we’re not able to make in-house.”
In addition, the lack of space meant Emmy’s couldn’t purchase equipment that would help make production more efficient, stunting its growth even more. That’s why Emmy’s has been trying to move for quite some time now.
Abrams and Gaffney originally looked at building a new place on Cherry Street in Ithaca, but that proved financially infeasible, so the two had to look for other options. They’ve been trying to purchase this building for the past couple of years, finally completing the purchase mid-October.
The $2.3 million project includes the purchased building, renovations and new equipment purchases. It was paid for with a $150,000 loan from Tompkins County Area Development’s (TCAD) revolving loan fund and financing by Tompkins Trust Company and the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council, according to TCAD. The Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency (TCIDA) also provided incentives to assist in the purchase of the building.
“We were able to, through our loan fund and another regional loan fund, supplement what the bank was able to do so they could buy the building, do the renovation and buy the equipment and install the equipment that they needed to grow in that space,” said Heather McDaniel, president of TCAD. “They’ll be able to grow their production facility, generate more revenue and pay their rent and continue to grow in Ithaca.”
Emmy’s closed its old building on West Buffalo Street in the beginning of November and will move into the new one in the beginning of 2020 after renovations are complete.
“I’m excited to be able to expand our business,” Abrams said. “It’s going to just allow us to do a lot more in general. Not only will we be able to fulfill the orders that we already have much quicker, but it is going to allow us to work directly with customers that require a certain food safety certification that we haven’t been able to get in our current space.”
The previous building served as a manufacturing space with some offices, Emmy’s rented an apartment next door for extra office space, and a West Coast company received and shipped the products all around the country. Abrams said the new building will bring all those operations under one roof, allowing for increased productivity, efficiency and economic return.
On top of that, the building helps make the offices less cramped, creating a better place to work for its 34 employees, whom Abrams said they value very much.
“Being able to grow our community within our business and just create a really awesome space for everybody is going to be great for our company culture,” she said.
Reflecting on how far they’ve come to get to this point, Abrams said Emmy’s has lasted because it sells good food that meet the demand of the times.
“Our product has really remained relevant,” Abrams said. “When we got started, the gluten-free industry was just starting to take off. … Now, more and more people are really paying attention to the ingredients that are in the foods that they buy, especially packaged food. And so, throughout all these years, there’s just been more and more demand.”
McDaniel said she’s excited for Abrams and Gaffney, calling Emmy’s a “brand ambassador” for Ithaca. When Emmy’s succeeds, she said, so do other businesses and organizations in the county.
“They sell products outside of the community, which brings wealth into the community, and they create long-term employment opportunities,” McDaniel said. “They’re just another example of the really exciting food-based manufacturing companies that are growing here, and we’d like to see more of that.”
On top of that, Abrams and Gaffney care about their product, their community and their employees, McDaniel said, which makes their company worthy of plenty of support.
“I love Ian and Sam,” McDaniel said. “They are awesome, and they’re just really good people. I think they do a lot for their employees, and they’re the kind of people that you want to help them and you want to see them succeed.”
Abrams said she and Gaffney are glad for so much community support, and she’s proud of their journey so far.
“It’s really crazy to think that just me and Ian were making and packaging and doing every single job that exists here … nine years ago,” she said. “Now, we have an amazing team of people who are better than us in a lot of different areas, so it’s a really amazing and rewarding thing to look back on how far we’ve come and to have amazing people contribute to our company.”
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