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County deal leaves granola firm scrambling for new digs

County deal leaves granola firm scrambling for new digs

Schenectady County building plan pushing small granola company out
County deal leaves granola firm scrambling for new digs
Lindsey Remington checks the hopper at Gatherer’s Gourmet Granola at 388 Broadway in Schenectady.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY -- Schenectady County's plan to lease 388 Broadway for expanded county offices has left a small gourmet granola company wondering what happens next.

The owner of Gatherer's Granola, which leases about 3,700 square feet in the Broadway side of the building, said he was caught by surprise by the county Legislature's committee-level decision on March 6 to enter a 25-year lease with the building's owner, Highbridge Development, of Schenectady.

"We were totally blindsided by it," said company founder and President Sandro Gerbini, who started the company at his mother's Delmar home in 2010 and moved it to Schenectady in 2012. Since 2012, the company's business has grown, as has its employment, from a one-man operation in 2012 to 14 employees today.

Gerbini acknowledged the company has been looking for a larger space but said he was still caught off-guard by a building conversion schedule that requires Gatherer's to vacate within a month or two.

The county's plan, which will be voted on by the full County Legislature Tuesday night, would have the county lease the entire building starting in February for use as a child welfare center. The building would include the Department of Social Services child welfare unit, a juvenile justice center and the county Probation Department.

As part of the long-term lease, Highbridge has agreed to add a second floor to what is now a one-story building. While Gatherer's leases the Broadway side of the building, the rear portion formerly housed the county Board of Elections, which was the main tenant. That space has been vacant since last year, when the Board of Elections moved to a different Highbridge Development property on Hamburg Street.

Gatherer's Granola has its entire operation at the Broadway location, including roasting about 600 pounds per day of grains, nuts and other ingredients, then mixing the ingredients into granola and packaging it in plastic packages for sale at Hannaford, Market 32/Price Chopper, some gourmet stores and at regional farmers and green markets.

Gerbini said he would like to see the company continue to expand, and he has been courting outside investors by bringing them to the facility, which is another reason why moving may be awkward in the short term. He estimated moving would also cost the company about three weeks of production, since the ovens and other equipment would need to be relocated.

Since learning of the need to move last week, company officials have been in touch with both Highbridge and the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority looking for help. They've already looked at space in another building owned by Highbridge.

"We have a strong preference for staying in Schenectady," Gerbini said. "Highbridge has said they will try to make sure they will do everything they can to try to meet our needs."

Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said Metroplex is also committed to trying to keep Gatherer's in the county.

"They're a great company, and they continue to grow, and we will work with them," Gillen said. "Gatherer's is outgrowing the space anyway. We are very committed to finding them something somewhere in Schenectady County."

Gillen wouldn not discuss specific sites the company has been shown but said facilities in the city and in Rotterdam are possibilities.

"We've shown them locations where they might be able to go, and we will intensify those efforts now that this [county lease] is going forward," he said.

Metroplex provided the company with a $7,500 grant when the startup first moved to Schenectady to launch larger-scale production in 2012.

Highbridge officials did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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