By Steve Urbon
November 05. 2015 7:00PM
NEW BEDFORD — Elected officials joined about 150 company employees Thursday in celebrating the groundbreaking for an $11 million expansion of the world headquarters of specialty food and produce giant Sid Wainer & Son on Purchase Street.
The plan is to demolish one building on the property and then add a 65,000-square-foot refrigerated produce shipping wing the length and depth of the property.
Henry B. Wainer, descendant of the Henry Wainer who with his brother, David, started the company on Union Street in 1914, delivered an at times emotional account of the way the family built the business over the years.
In Italy on a field trip to farms, Wainer said, his family was so welcomed by the locals that “they threw a parade for us.”
Wainer described how today, chefs from all over the world come to acquaint themselves with new foods and develop recipes and menus. “New Bedford is becoming the culinary capital of the world,” Wainer said.
The company employees who work at the site got a one-hour break in mid-afternoon to go to the event tent in the parking lot where the ceremony was held. Those attending included former state Sen. William MacLean, City Councilor Brian Gomes, state Rep William Straus, D-Mattapoisett, state Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, state Rep. Chris Markey, D-Dartmouth, and Police Chief David Provencher.
Mayor Jon Mitchell, conspicuously casual without a necktie two days after winning re-election, observed that there are two brands from New Bedford that are known around the world: Titleist golf balls and Sid Wainer & Son. Both companies have made good on promises to stay in New Bedford.
Wainer said that the company, which employs 470, is hiring more employees who will be able to work in all the new space starting in June 2016. Half of his employees live in New Bedford, he said.
They will be part of a company that is known world-wide, especially on the Eastern Seaboard where the distinctive white Sid Wainer trucks can be seen on highways everywhere.
The addition will mean major changes in the interior layout of the building as well. The entry will be at the front, not off the side as now, and spaces will be enlarged and connected.
The famous outlet store will be reconfigured somewhat; new registers are already being installed and walls removed.
The groundbreaking was followed by an eye-opening buffet of dozens of samples of cheeses, fruits, specialty meats, salads, and other delicacies in the outlet store.
In his talk, Wainer talked about how the company has been evolving to become the nation’s premier speciality food and produce distributor. He claimed credit for being on the ground floor of the organic foods movement.
Many of the types of produce being sold by the company to chefs around the world were developed at the company’s 48-acre experimental farm in South Dartmouth.
“A multitude of problems resulted in wonderful things,” he said. And despite the star status that the company has in the food industry, he said that “the company is starting to spread its wings.”
By Steve Urbon