Chicago Heights pita maker embarks on big expansion
By Mike Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org March 7, 2012 9:42PM
Andre Papantoniou, co-owner of Pita Pan Old World Bakery in Chicago Heights, conducts a tour of the factory Wednesday (March 7, 2012) for Chicago Heights city officials, including (left) Mayor David Gonzalez. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 10, 2012 11:21AM
Economic development can come in all shapes and sizes, and in one instance in Chicago Heights the shape is flat and round.
The city is home to Pita Pan Old World Bakery, which turns out about 1 million pieces of pita bread daily and is undergoing an expansion that will double its capacity by the end of the year.
The addition ultimately could add more than 100 jobs.
The company’s been operating in Chicago Heights, at the northeast corner of State Street and Joe Orr Road, for six years. A 105,000-square-foot addition is expected to be completed before the end of this year.
“We know that to get our community back we need economic development, we need job creation,” Mayor David Gonzalez said during a groundbreaking ceremony at the company Wednesday.
Company officials said Pita Pan will create between 40 and 50 jobs once the first phase of the expansion, including a second production line, is completed. That’s expected to occur by early December, and the second phase could bring another 50 or more jobs, according to Andre Papantoniou, co-owner of Pita Pan. The company now has 45 employees.
Most of what Pita Pan makes is sold directly to the food service industry and fast-food restaurants. Taco Bell is its biggest customer, using the flatbreads for its gordita and chalupa items, and Quizno’s is also a customer.
Papantoniou said the company is working to get its products into retail outlets, including supermarkets. He said Pita Pan distributes its products throughout the U.S. and Canada as well as to some European markets.
The company, privately held, isn’t disclosing the cost of the expansion. Pita Pan doesn’t disclose its annual sales, but the company has seen strong sales growth and, with the expansion, hopes to offer a wider array of flatbreads to customers, according to Wouter de Beuckelaer, Pita Pan’s business development manager.
He said Papantoniou’s family has a long baking tradition, and Pita Pan has been able to incorporate in wide-scale production the natural sourdough the family has long used in its flatbreads.
Papantoniou co-owns Pita Pan with his brother, Kostas. They also own Olympia Foods, a distributor of gyros meat and related products, located near Midway Airport.