CANAAN — When Heather Kerner launched her startup, The Good Crust, in 2020, she rented space at The Miller’s Table at Maine Grains in Skowhegan, where she had access a couple of days a week to an 80-square-foot kitchen and a large walk-in freezer.

It gave Kerner room to produce up to 11 pounds of pizza dough at a time, with the capacity to make that amount about five times a day.

Business, it turned out, was good.

The Good Crust has expanded its operation with a move earlier this year to 210 Main St. in Canaan. The 1,200 square feet of space features new equipment that allows for production of about 2,000 pounds of dough per day that work is done.

“For us, the footprint and condition of this facility is just right,” Kerner said. “It is sparkling and new, not too big so as to be unaffordably expensive to operate in, and just 6 miles from the grist mill where we purchase 100% of our grain ingredients.”

Shawn Duffy pours ice Monday into a new 160-quart mixer used to make 350-pound batches of dough for pizza crust at The Good Crust in Canaan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The Good Crust has produced 61,000 pounds of dough since launching two years ago. This year alone, the business is on track to produce 35,000 pounds, using about the same volume of local grains in the process. Although there are several pizza dough makers across Maine, The Good Crust is the only maker of commercially available dough made with 100% Maine grains, according to Kerner.

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The process of making the dough, she said, is different from some competitors, using a process required for freshly milled grains to create a higher-hydration dough.

“(The process) is part mechanized, part manual,” Kerner said. “This is directly in line with our social mission of creating good jobs in Somerset County for underserved populations.”

The Good Crust has partnerships with The Miller’s Table at Maine Grains and Crown O’Maine Distribution Co. in Vassalboro. Since opening, The Good Crust has also become a supplier for Flight Deck Brewing in Brunswick, Strong Brewing Co. in Sedgwick, Maine-based Hearth and Soul Oven and others in Maine or as far as the Hudson Valley of New York.

Heather Kerner, founder of The Good Crust, at the company’s new production facility Monday in Canaan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The Canaan space allows The Good Crust to expand the building at some point. Kerner is also planning to add another freezer, which would help the business have the capacity to reach $1 million in revenue in the next two years.

“Then we can start thinking about a modest kitchen expansion to extend our ability to support Maine agricultural products with new markets for a pre-stretched pizza dough round, dry pizza dough mix and higher volumes of frozen dough to serve Maine’s university, school and hospital food service programs,” said Kerner, the twin sister of Maine Grains co-founder and CEO Amber Lambke.

 

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Kerner is an occupational therapist by training and is employed by Oakland-based Regional School Unit 18. A primary aim of her business is to provide work force development training for people with different cognitive and physical abilities.

The Good Crust is one of several in Somerset County planning to expand in the coming months.

“The Good Crust and its expansion is a wonderful story, especially early on in the pandemic and its accompanying economic uncertainty,” said Christian Savage, executive director of the Somerset Economic Development Co. “This is a testament to Heather’s commitment, intelligence and confidence in her business.

“As food security and supply chain constraints continue to plague us all, The Good Crust is well-positioned to succeed and contribute to our local economy with their locally sourced goods.”

Maine Grains and Bigelow Brewing Co. have announced expansions of their facilities in downtown Skowhegan. An Embden couple last fall closed on the Solon Hotel with plans to renovate the building in a multiphase project, revitalizing space that is to be a restaurant, bar and entertainment area.

GO Lab/TimberHP is also ramping up to begin production of wood fiber insulation at the former Madison Paper Mill, with production slated to begin in early 2023, a move expected to bring about 100 jobs to the area.

In Bingham, Maine Plywood is planning to begin operations at the old Quimby Mill, with plans to create about 100 jobs producing high-end wood underlay/plywood.

“Regionally, the business climate has had its ups and downs, like most areas, but we have been impressed with the amount of new businesses opening, even in these trying times,” Savage said. “We’re also pleased to see existing businesses invest in themselves and their employees during the pandemic.

“The Good Crust is another business contributing to Somerset County’s local food and grain economy, which really took off with Maine Grains over 10 years ago.”

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