Everything at Wiltshire Pantry has been expanding — the size of the staff, the number of wholesale clients, the bread — but until recently, the business’s commissary employees were squeezed for space.
Last week, the restaurant, bakery and catering business moved its commissary operations into a new 4,250-square-foot space on the edge of the Shelby Park neighborhood. It is roughly three times larger than its former commissary.
“It makes me want to cry from happiness,” said Patricia Kelley, Wilshire’s executive pastry chef. “We were definitely playing Tetris just every single day in our old space, and we just needed this so bad.”
Wiltshire’s commissary formerly operated at 1346 River Road, previously a restaurant space, but quickly outgrew that.
“I feel like we knew within six months of the old location, which was our second spot, that we were going to outgrow that space,” Kelley said.
Wiltshire owner Susan Hershberg added that the River Road location was a temporary fix for the business, which needed more space than the bakery on Barret Avenue had, and it provided a semiconvenient option that needed minimal alterations.
However, with its wholesale clients, its catering operations, its bakery and cafe on Barret Avenue, Wiltshire on Market and Wiltshire at the Speed, the River Road store became packed with people and products. At the former commissary, Wiltshire had two fridges “that were so full that if you have to open it, you had to brace yourself” to catch stuff falling out, Hershberg said, adding that baked goods and doughs weren’t able to get cool enough.
The new commissary is at 900 E. Kentucky St. in a 51,035-square-foot warehouse that previously housed the Axton Candy & Tobacco Co. Wiltshire shares the building with Safai Coffee and Hawthorn Beverage Group.
“This will hopefully give us room to grow, and we’ve expanded our team now, so we have a really, really strong leader on each of the three shifts,” Hershberg said.
Production in the new commissary officially started Aug. 1 after workers spent about five months renovating the space for Wiltshire. It needed new plumbing and electric; the ceilings were dropped to make them easier to clean; and they needed to make sure the ventilation system wouldn’t bring in outside smells that could infuse themselves in the products.
Hershberg declined to say how much the renovations cost but said it was “a whole lot of money.” She added that the building was perfect for the commissary because it was already FDA-approved for making food, had an indoor loading dock, and had double doors to keep the commissary kitchen sealed from the outside.
Already the new space is allowing Wiltshire to add new products. The commissary is outfitted with deck ovens, which the business never had before, that allows them to set the ovens on different temperatures and inject steam into the ovens when needed.
Because of the deck ovens, Hershberg said, Wiltshire is now adding bagels to its offerings. And with more freezer and refrigeration space, as well as more elbow room, Wiltshire is starting to make cakes for at least one restaurant client.
“We couldn’t even think about offering that level of service before because we just didn’t have the space,” Hershberg said. “It was a perfect spot for us.”
The commissary operates 24 hours a day and employs 12 people, though Hershberg said she could to add a few more employees in the future to help keep up with demand.
Wiltshire was recently added to the lists of preferred caterers at Buffalo Trace Distillery, the Peterson-Dumesnil House and Angel’s Envy Distillery. It also is gradually adding 14 new stores to its list of wholesale clients.
To illustrate the business’s growth, Kelley, who’s worked for Wiltshire for four years, said to take a look at the croissant orders.
“What we used to make in a week, we now make in a day,” she said. “We are either busy or psycho busy.”