Century Old Business Expands And Adapts For The Future

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HAMPDEN, Maine (WABI) - In 1908, Dennis Paper and Food Service started as a small family business.

Now more than a century later, that business continues to expand and grow.

Three years ago, the business became employee owned, and now they're poised for the future.

"The Dennis family, what they've done sort of changed their business model as things have presented themselves is just what we've done with this last build out as well as 2012, same thing," said Rick Robertson the Chief Operating Officer for Dennis Paper and Food Services.

The 2012 expansion took the original warehouse and added 20,000 square feet. Then last year, they broke ground on a new expansion that was just finished this summer adding 30,000 more square feet, including more warehouse and freezer space.

"We have the opportunity to hold more product to be able to get that out to our customers,' said their Director of Operations Sara Green-Hamann. "Without that extra space, we wouldn't have the availability, we couldn't house as many products, we couldn't house the volume of products that we have to be able to get that out to our customers."

With the most recent expansion, part of that included a new test kitchen described by Brand Director Luke LaBree. "We've got a subzero freezer / refrigerator combo, Imperial Stove, flat iron grill, pizza oven, fryolator, and we also added an island range as well."

The idea is to have a hands on area to work on food ideas, showcase their products, and as LaBree pointed out be ready for the future of food services. "We wanted to make sure that we were looking forward, investing the technology and resources to build our business honestly in a world that is connected through digital media. You know just to look at a catalog and say I'll have item number 2227 and to bring that to life in a video and a photo is a whole other story."

The plan is to bring in chefs and work on menus featuring the items they offer, then record those sessions to be used by or for their customers.

"Our core culture is food driven," said LaBree. "We love the food world, we love what we do and we wanted our own test kitchen and rather than renting out a space every month to get our sales guys together and see new products, try new things, we said we want our own space to do it, so we built it and we built it exactly the way we wanted it."

For a business that started as a bottling company and expanded to paper products and now a food distribution center, this is the next step in their next century of growth.

"I think it's an investment in a dream," added LaBree. "I mean that is the best way to put it. We've got goals, we've got a road map, we know where we want to be in the future, we know how we're growing and we know what it takes to get us there, and our team basically said "let's do it" and we did it and it's an investment in really what we want to accomplish."