WESTFIELD - One of Dave Carr's signature achievements is coming to fruition months after the longtime village mayor left office. Everyone interviewed over several days' time agreed Carr deserves an abundance of credit for convincing the businesswomen who head Rae Foods to relocate the Nowinski Pierogi brand in Westfield.
"Dave's been tremendous; every time there was a roadblock, he got it out of the way," is just part of the kudos Carr received from Rachelle McFeely, Rae's president. McFeely's mom and partner, Beverly Braley, praised what she termed "the true welcome we received," which included, "feeling free to ask any questions."
Braley commented during an hour-long interview at the firm's new plant, the former Exempts' Hall on 75 Bourne St. Also interviewed was McFeely's daughter, Kayla, who now works part-time for Rae until she graduates from Thiel College in December. "I'm just kind of helping now," she said, but looks forward to a full-time role.
Shown, from left, are Dave Carr, Beverly Braley, Rachelle McFeely and Kayla McFeely standing in the excavation for a loading dock, one of the many changes necessary to convert the former Exempts’ Hall to a food manufacturing facility.
Photo by Dave O’Connor
Carr, also present, said he is happy Rae chose Westfield. "We've had no new manufacturer in 40 years," he noted. Serendipity played a part in developments, according to the former mayor. "It was fortunate the building was up for sale."
Carr learned of Rae's interest in relocating to the village when contacted by Bill Carlson, a realtor with Howard Hanna Holt, who had showed the 15,000-square-foot facility to McFeely and Braley last September.
Still mayor at that time, Carr contacted the mother-daughter team at their North East, Pa., residence and arranged a series of meetings. Carr remembers he immediately told Aaron Resnick, executive director of the village's development agency, that a substantial economic opportunity was at hand. Resnick, in turn, summoned the resources of the county's Industrial Development Agency.
County Executive Greg Edwards, interviewed separately, said Carr was instrumental in landing Nowinski. "He worked hard, very hard," Edwards said and added, "He really pushed to make sure good jobs would come to Westfield and Chautauqua County."
Rae Foods, so called because all three women share "Rae" as their middle name, had purchased the Nowinski Pierogi operation in New Castle, Pa. Nowinski's owners and employees were all at or near retirement and wanted to cash out. McFeely and Braley had long management experience at an Erie, Pa., food manufacturing business, and after a tour of Nowinski, both women were convinced they could improve an already good product, update machinery and, most important - substantially increase sales.
Hiring part-time employees is planned to start mid-September, and both McFeely and Braley are confident pierogies will start shipping by late October. Their business plan envisions about 15 full-time employees in 12 months. Six varieties of pierogies will be packaged under a new logo and the "Pride of New York" stamp.
The women are confident the use of high-quality fresh ingredients, including potatoes mashed on site, combined with no pre-cooking of pierogies at the plant and larger size, will make Nowinski a standout in the frozen food section. Because of the quality, they also expect to supply the little pies to restaurants and delis, sometimes with a different label. And if another maker can't fill its own orders, Rae Foods will make pierogies using the other firm's recipes, according to McFeely, who said the practice is known in the industry as co-packing.
"I'm thankful they're here," Carr concluded.