WINSLOW — A  burgeoning specialty food maker began humbly at the Getz family’s cozy home kitchen, but the family-owned company’s next base of operations will be anything but small — a sign of the venture’s significant growth.

Maine Crisp Co. is continuing its rise in the niche food industry by expanding into a new location and choosing to stay in the area as Waterville experiences an economic resurgence.

“What we liked about it is that we could have everything under one roof,” Karen Getz said. “We’ve got a great production team, and we want to keep that team in the area and stay in central Maine, where we live here in Waterville.”

After considering spaces in Portland and Brunswick, the Waterville-bred, gluten-free and plant-based crisp maker is taking over the 17,500-square-foot facility at 20 Lithgow St., which formerly housed Allsco USA Building Products Inc. The Getz family plans to be moved in by May.

Maine Crisp Co. includes co-founders Steven and Karen Getz, along with daughters Rachel and Claire. Steven Getz serves as vice president of marketing and Karen Getz as vice president of product development. Rachel Getz manages marketing and social media and Claire Getz works as the manager of production quality.

Most people know 2020 was challenging for many businesses because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Getz family had to furlough its five-person production staff with pay through a Payment Protection Program loan from April until the first week of June. Getting the company’s products into more stores has also been challenging.

Erin Pawliczek bakes and packs specialty crackers Friday at Maine Crisp Co. in Waterville. The growing, family-owned company is moving to 20 Lithgow St. in Winslow. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“COVID and the lockdown was a kick in the stomach for us and so many other businesses,” Steven Getz said. “It was truly a shock. Every single marketing event that we had got canceled, from Los Angeles to the shows in New York.”

The relocation to Lithgow Street allows Maine Crisp Co. to significantly expand its production capacity, necessitated by a deal with Whole Foods to supply crisps to 46 of the grocery giant’s New England stores.

Maine Crisp Co. also supplies Hannaford supermarkets in Maine and New Hampshire, and a handful of specialty food stores. Additionally, it sells its products online and supplies farmers’ markets, cooperatives and other businesses or organizations.

“We had such a strong response to the product,” Steven Getz said. “It seemed like the time to push really hard.”

Rachel Getz described her social media and marketing experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic as “really fun.” She connected with women from other small businesses and increased efforts to market direct-to-consumer sales.

Charcuterie, the French tradition of preparing and assembling cured meats and meat products on platters, is booming on social media. Rachel Getz said Maine Crisp Co. is capitalizing on this by “doubling down” on email marketing and Facebook promotions to connect with customers throughout New England and beyond.

“I’ve been connecting with them over social media to get our products onto our boards, which has been a great way to get our crisps into customers’ mouths during a time where we can’t sample or demo products,” she said. “All things considered during this tough time, it’s been a great opportunity to connect with customers across the country.”

The Getz family moved to Waterville in 2014 and launched the business later that year.

Maine Crisp Co. began its journey at a licensed home kitchen. Three years later, the company moved to a 2,500-square-foot manufacturing facility at Waterville’s Railroad Square, while also leasing 3,500 square feet of warehouse space in Benton.

The new facility in Winslow allows the company to do all of its manufacturing, packaging and warehousing at one location. There is also space for offices and a front lobby for retail sales.

Suzy Drinkwater sorts and packs specialty crackers Friday at Maine Crisp Co. in Waterville. The growing, family-owned company is moving to 20 Lithgow St. in Winslow. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“I’m always losing five or 10 minutes a day driving back and forth, so consolidating under one roof just eliminates travel time if I forget something or I have a last-minute order that needs to go out,” Claire Getz said. “Having it all  under one roof, with a later pickup time from UPS, for example, just means I can be more efficient.”

Maine Crisp Co. is also working with the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership to optimize the layout of the new space. As a specialty food producer, Maine Crisp Co. requires an FDA-approved, dedicated-gluten-free space that meets non-GMO, kosher and allergen certifications.

Maine Crisp Co. gets its buckwheat from the Bouchard Family Farm in Fort Kent, where it is also milled into flour.

“We have another 2,000 pounds coming in,” Claire Getz said.

“Yeah, we order by the pallet,” Karen Getz added.

Suzy Drinkwater sorts and packs specialty crackers Friday at Maine Crisp Co. in Waterville. The growing, family-owned company is moving to 20 Lithgow St. in Winslow. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The Getz family hopes to triple employment over the next three years, to about 35. New employees receive starting pay of $15 an hour, significantly more than Maine’s current minimum wage of $12.15.

The Winslow location, which will serve as the company’s headquarters, will employ workers who receive and inventory bulk ingredients or handle manufacturing, packaging, finished goods, marketing, logistics or management.

Staying in the region was a conscious and important choice, according to members of the Getz family, who have lived across the country — from San Jose, California, to Pennsylvania and Vermont — but fell in love with central Maine.

“Waterville’s economic development, with Colby helping and taking the lead on that, wasn’t quite happening when we got first started,” Steven Getz said. “We had a choice of where to go, but with everything going on that’s so positive, we wanted to do our part with the economic development and keep the business here.”

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