Cheryl's soon will be baking up bigger batches of cookies and brownies at its Westerville headquarters.

Cheryl's soon will be baking up bigger batches of cookies and brownies at its Westerville headquarters.

The homegrown bakery's corporate owner, 1-800-FLOWERS, broke ground Tuesday, Feb. 18 on an expansion to its Cheryl's manufacturing plant that nearly will double the production capability, square footage and staff of the facility.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich led a raft of state, local and corporate officials came to town Tuesday to mark the occasion at the Cheryl's headquarters, 646 McCorkle Blvd.

"They're at production capacity," said 1-800-FLOWERS spokesman Joe Pititto. "They're doing a great job, but they're baking every cookie they can and selling them at a very fast pace."

Cheryl's sells about $60 million worth of baked goods a year, Pititto said, and sales are growing at a double-digit pace.

The first phase of expansion, set to be completed by June, will add 35,000 square feet of production and warehouse space to the existing 45,000-square-foot facility. That will be followed by the addition of 7,500 square feet for office space and a small retail outlet.

The expansion will allow the company to produce up to $125 million in goods annually.

"Essentially, we're doubling the capacity," Pititto said.

Cheryl & Co., as the company used to be known, was founded in central Ohio as Cheryl's Cookies in 1981 by former college roommates Cheryl Krueger and Caryl Walker. Walker died in 1986.

Cheryl's moved to Westerville in 1994, as the city created the McCorkle Boulevard business corridor, and Krueger sold Cheryl & Co. to 1-800-FLOWERS in 2005.

The national company has food divisions, specializing in popcorn and chocolate, in Illinois and Canton.

Pititto said in looking to expand Cheryl's, 1-800-FLOWERS researched other locations but ultimately found its Westerville home to be the best fit.

"The production facility is very efficient, and the workforce that we have there is really top-notch. We wouldn't stay in that location if that wasn't the case," Pititto said. "Westerville also provides a good expandable workforce, which is important. If you're going to expand the plant, you have to be able to staff it."

Westerville's economic development team, Columbus 2020 and JobsOhio worked to keep Cheryl's baking in Westerville, with the city and the state offering tax incentives for growing the company locally.

"You're not just competing with central Ohio, you're competing all across the country for this type of investment," said Westerville Economic Development Administrator Jason Bechtold.

With 160 full-time and 162 seasonal employees and an annual payroll of $7.9 million, Cheryl's is a top 15 employer in Westerville, Bechtold said.

With the expansion, the company will add 92 full-time and 89 seasonal employees over the next three years, Bechtold said. That will mean an additional $3.8 million in payroll.

Westerville City Manager Dave Collinsworth said the city is glad that investment will happen in Westerville, rather than in one of the other locations 1-800-FLOWERS considered for Cheryl's.

"Cheryl's has been a great employer and corporate supporter of the Westerville community," Collinsworth said. "We are thrilled at their decision to grow their business in the city and bring more jobs and economic growth to Westerville."