Shire City Herbals announces $1.2 million expansion in Pittsfield

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PITTSFIELD — Shire City Herbals has found the place it needs to expand — and a distributor to sell its products nationally.

The Pittsfield-based company, which makes vinegar-based health tonics including the popular Fire Cider brand, announced on Thursday that it plans to build and operate a new $1.2 million production facility in a former warehouse at 15 Commercial St.

Shire City has also entered into a partnership with GNC Foods, a national retailer that sells health and sport-related vitamins, supplements, herbs, drinks and snacks. Fire Cider's 8-ounce size drink will be available in 4,500 GNC stores across the country next month.

GNC has a store in the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough.

The firm, which began in a church kitchen in Pittsfield in 2011, has experienced cumulative growth of 55 percent since its inception. Shire City currently operates out of two separate facilities, a commercial kitchen at the Franklin County Development Corp. in Greenfield, and a warehouse at 703 West Housatonic St., where the firm's offices and shipping services are located.

It has run out of room in both locations, which CEO Dana St. Pierre said makes future expansion difficult.

"We would have had to start turning down clients this fall," said St. Pierre, who co-owns Shire City Herbals with his wife, Amy Huebner, and brother in law, Brian Huebner.

The 20,000-square-foot facility on Commercial Street, built in 1952 and last occupied by Protech Armored Products, gives Shire City the room it needs to grow and the ability to house its kitchen, administrative offices and shipping at the same location for the first time. Shire City expects to create 10 new jobs and retain 14 others through the expansion project.

"We've been trying to move for two years now, but one deal after another fell through for one reason or another," St. Pierre said. "Moving here will allow us to continue our rapid growth. We just hired our 15th employee this morning."

Shire City hopes to have its offices and shipping located at its new facility next month, and its new 6,500-square foot commercial kitchen up and running by September, St. Pierre said. Online bottling at the new facility is scheduled to begin in 2018. The $1.2 million price tag for the former warehouse includes the $412,500 that Shire City paid to Protech's parent company, Safariland LLC, for the structure, and the extensive renovation costs, which include the installation of a new floor.

"We're currently sawing up the concrete floor and throwing it away," St. Pierre said.

To finance the venture, Shire City Herbals recently received $74,000 in investment tax credits from MassDevelopment. The city of Pittsfield has also proposed a 10-year, $42,788 tax incentive package for Shire City Herbals in return for phasing in the increase in value the property will undergo because of the renovations.

The City Council's finance subcommittee has approved the tax incentive package and sent it back to the council for full approval, according to City Clerk Jody Phillips. The council is expected to consider the matter at Tuesday's meeting.

Lee Bank has also helped Shire City Herbals with financing, and the company has been working with both the city's Department of Community Development and the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp.

"The help that we're getting from the city and the state frees our cash for the first couple or years and enables us to fund our growth," St. Pierre said.

Based on a homemade remedy that St. Pierre's grandmother originally brought to the U.S. from Germany and marketed as a "vinegar and spice tonic," Fire Cider is currently sold in 1,700 stores in 48 states. But St. Pierre said the partnership with GNC, "is by far definitely the largest single account we've ever gotten.

"It's a huge deal for us because it will make our products more accessible," he said. "It's mostly carried in specialty and natural food stores. GNC is more of a supplement store, so it will put us in front of a different segment of the public."

Contact Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski at 413 496-6224.


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