CRISFIELD — An effort to relocate the Smith Island Baking Company’s Crisfield operation from the former Cove Restaurant to the former Riggin’s Market took a big step forward.
The Maryland Board of Public Works on Jan. 6 approved a $650,000 Neighborhood BusinessWorks (NBW) loan to finance the project which calls for the restoration of the Chesapeake Avenue building, consolidation of bakery operations there, and the addition of 10 new jobs.
The loan breaks down into several parts: $50,000 is for the purchase of the building, $10,000 is for pre-development costs, and $460,000 is earmarked for remodeling and improvements. For furnishings, fixtures and equipment, the NBW loan of $130,000 is supplemented by another $250,000 coming from the Maryland Economic Adjustment Fund. Bakery founder and president Brian Murphy and his partners are contributing $50,000.
When completed the Riggin’s property is anticipated to be valued at $800,000 providing the Department of Housing and Community Development 100 percent collateral for the loan.
The Smith Island cake was designated Maryland’s State Dessert in 2008, and a year later Smith Island Baking Company Inc. was formed. It has been baking cakes in Crisfield since 2012. That same year Riggin’s Market announced it would close its doors Dec. 1, but shuttered three weeks early on Nov. 9, 2012 following the arrival of superstorm Sandy in late October of that year.
The current facility on Eighth Street and Broadway is limited and relocation to the 13,000 sq. ft. store will allow for a large, open production area, loading dock and shipping area in addition to a small retail storefront. Capacity is expected to increase by more than 500 percent which will sustain 30 employees. The company expects to be in place by this summer. Not part of the sale is the parking lot, which was sold this past August to Billy Gene Swift.
In a Facebook message from Mr. Murphy about the closing of the bakery in Ewell, he wrote that a commercial bakery would remain on Smith Island “as long as customer experience did not suffer.” However after consulting with employees and his management team, “we came to the unanimous conclusion that customer experience was beginning to suffer due to the logistics and nature of the facility on the island.”
For employees, Mr. Murphy wrote he has offered ferry transportation to and from the island, but none had replied but he hoped they would change their mind, “and there will always be a job for them.”
He said there has been revenue, but no profit, from his family’s investment in the business.
“We are very proud of how we run the company, and of the economic impact we have made,” Mr. Murphy concluded in his post. “We will continue to invest in the company, the island, and the region, but only in a way that customer experience is never compromised. To suggest anything to the contrary is equal parts lazy and dishonest.”
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