Although Carfagna's new food manufacturing facility in the Northland area has been up and running since last fall, it was only last week -- after the press of the holiday season finally subsided -- that members of the family could show neighbors and officials what had been done with a former vacant warehouse.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony and private reception took place March 20 at the 11,000-square-foot facility on Johnny Appleseed Court, near the intersection of state routes 161 and 3. The building is the new home of the Italian food manufacturing operation launched in 1995 in leased space on North Sixth Street near the campus of Columbus State Community College.
"This move really gives us room to breathe," co-owner Dino Carfagna said in a statement. "Given the space limitations at our former plant and volume of product we've been selling, we were at maximum capacity.
"The challenge for us was to accommodate the increased demand while not straying too far from our original location."
"It was in desperate need of change," brother and co-owner Sam Carfagna said in an interview.
The family business was launched in 1937 by his grandfather, also named Sam, the family's immigrant patriarch. The search for a new facility began on a casual basis about five years ago, Carfagna said.
The 20-foot ceilings, open spaces and five overhead doors were major factors in choosing the new space, he said.
"All that made it a great move, and the fact that it was a reasonable-enough purchase," Carfagna said.
What his grandfather started in 1937 as Cleve Meats has grown into Carfagna's Meats and Specialty Foods on East Dublin-Granville Road, Carfagna's Kitchen fast-casual restaurant on Polaris Parkway, and the Italian food manufacturing operation.
"For decades, the family jarred its sauces and soups in the back of its grocery business, selling them only in their store," a press release said. "As the popularity of their products rose, the family launched their manufacturing operations, which led to distribution deals with food-service vendors and other retail shops.
"Today, Carfagna's sauces and soups are available in several stores throughout the state, including the Anderson's, Heinen's (in the Cleveland area), Giant Eagle, Kroger Marketplace, Whole Foods and a multitude of independent stores."
"Carfagna's is one of the most enduring small-business success stories in central Ohio, if not the entire state," Ohio Grocers Association President and Chief Executive Officer Nate Filler said. "You just don't see too many independent businesses in any industry lasting 76 years, let alone one that spans four generations of a single family and continues to evolve and thrive.
In preparation for the move from one manufacturing facility to the other, Sam Carfagna said his cousin, Jim Cua, plant manager for nearly 19 years, oversaw the buildup of inventory to meet six weeks of demand -- a comfortable margin for shutting things down and starting them back up.
"That was key, because we knew it would take probably three weeks in all," Carfagna said.
The cushion in supply came in handy, because some new customers signed up during the switch, he said.
The relocation was not made without some trepidation, he said.
"All in all, we're feared a move," Carfagna said. "We had 19 years of putting equipment and adding equipment and building on. We put in a sophisticated boiler steam system to operate all our cooking equipment. It's kind of hard to leave all that behind."
But, he said, more space allows the creation of more product.
"More product necessitates more employees," he said in an announcement. "The growth and capacity will enable us to get into more stores while keeping pace with the added volume. We'll also now be able to expand the restaurant aspect of our business, and we're already researching which central Ohio communities might be good fits.
"It's taken a while to get to this point, but we're very excited for the next chapter."
The co-owners also noted there's a sentimental aspect to the new site: It's only a block from their childhood home in Minerva Park.