Amy's Kitchen 'renaissance for Goshen' Major international business will build on 225 acres, hire hundreds of new employees
Town of Goshen Supervisor Doug Bloomfield takes a moment after the town planning board meeting to stand with Kevin Haslebacher, Executive Vice President of Manufacturing Operations at Amy's Kitchen. (Photo by Geri Corey)
By Geri Corey GOSHEN — The future home of Amy’s Kitchen in Goshen is big news — so big, in fact, that Town Supervisor Doug Bloomfield compared it to the 1841 arrival of the first railroad in Goshen.As a consequence of the coming of the Erie Railroad, two large hotels were built — St. Elmo and the Occidental — each with 50 rooms. They had a big impact on the small town face of Goshen.“Amy’s is coming," Bloomfield said. "They like us. Goshen is a great place to do business, and we want to bring business to Goshen."He added: "This is a renaissance for Goshen — particularly for agriculture.”Bloomfield was addressing the nearly full-house audience who came to the last planning board meeting to hear the news that Amy’s Kitchen is definitely coming.The large-scale natural and organic food company purchased a 225-acre parcel, located between Route 17M and Echo Lake Road on the Wallkill River, to construct a 580,000 square foot plant to operate a food business.“The area is fairly isolated with no residential areas around,” said John O’Rourke, engineer with Lanc & Tully. The plant will have its own well and sewerage treatment plant. Approximately 15 trucks will run per day, with access only off Route 6.“The facility is hidden," he explained. "It’s not visible from the road."'Trickle down' predicted The Goshen plant will be the company’s third. Amy's Kitchen's first large-scale plant is in Petaluma, California, and the second is in Medford, Oregon. Since 60 percent of the company’s sales are east of the Mississippi, and half of those sales are in the northeast, New York is the ideal state to expand their business.When it’s fully built out, the projected $95 million project will offer between 600 and 700 jobs.But there’s more besides offering jobs. The supervisor spoke about the “trickle down effect” of a major company building in Goshen, like hiring local construction companies and using produce and dairy from local farms.The Black Dirt area adds to Goshen’s appeal, since Amy’s Kitchen looks to purchase local products. With the magnitude of the business, other sources include parts of Europe, South America, and Mexico.”We can’t be totally reliant on one source,” said Mark Rudolph, Chief Financial Officer with Amy’s Kitchen. “Amy’s makes good food from organic produce. It tastes like you make at home and freeze it."Filling a need The idea behind the business took inception when Andy Berliner realized he couldn’t find ready-made health store food that tasted good. He and his wife, Rachel, decided to try their hand at making food that is good tasting as well as nutritious.In 1987 they developed their first product, a vegetarian potpie that met their high expectations of great tasting and good for you. In the same year, their daughter Amy was born, and not knowing what to name their new business, Rachel’s mom suggested “Amy’s Kitchen” after her new granddaughter. Since then, the company has grown to offer 250 natural and organic convenience and frozen foods.Not having much money at the time, the young couple borrowed $12,000 on Rachel’s car to meet the needs of their growing business. It's a true family venture: Andy’s mom, Clarice, bought one of the first pieces of equipment for Amy’s, and Eleanor Goodman, Rachel’s mom, financed one of the first packaging machines. Eleanor still works for the company.Amy’s Kitchen products are already in every supermarket across the country, including Cosco, Wal-Mart, and Target. They also have operations in 27 European countries.“The company has stayed committed to the mission of offering products that use the finest organic ingredients, are non-GMO, are purchased locally and made with love,” said Kevin Haslebacher, Executive Vice President of Manufacturing Operations.Healthy food for all It’s clear the Berliners really love the business, and it’s Rachel’s intent to have healthy food on the table of every American home.To give some idea of the immensity of Amy’s Kitchen, yearly, the company uses 36 million pounds of tomatoes and 2 million pounds of mozzarella. Their passion is reflected in the care given to their products. For instance, they make their own pastas, Mexican and Italian sauces, cheese sauces, tortillas are hand rolled and folded, is the largest manufacturer of tofu, and every item placed on their pizzas is done by hand.“Buy two pizzas and see the difference,” quipped Haslebacher. “It takes 140 people to make a pizza, and they make 140 pizzas a minute. We make a lot of pizza!”Ninety-percent of their products are certified organic, and their passion for good food extends to those who have specific dietary needs. Gluten-free (more than 100 selections), salt free, light and lean, Kosher and vegan food products are part of their line. Their canned soup ranks fourth in sales in the country.There’s more to Amy’s Kitchen than creating ready-to-eat meals, as reflected in their belief in looking upon employees as extended family. The company offers scholarships for children of employees, runs onsite doctor-staffed health centers offering full clinic services for primary health care for employees and their families, and hosts holiday parties that Andy and Rachel attend. In fact, coming up are the Cinco de Mayo celebrations, always complete with mariachi bands.The company’s generosity extends to others, also. This past year Amy’s Kitchen has donated over a million dollars, mostly in food products, for disaster relief.