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Borden-Carleton Handpie Company moving, gearing up for expansion

Sarah Benneto O’Brien, owner of the Handpie Company, chooses a handpie for a customer.
Sarah Benneto O’Brien, owner of the Handpie Company, chooses a handpie for a customer. - Millicent McKay

The popular business is located in Gateway Village in Borden-Carleton

BORDEN-CARLETON – Sarah Bennetto O’Brien can see the future of the Handpie Company.

“We’re moving locations in early February. We’ll be in another building in Gateway Village that will have more indoor seating and allow for better tourism traffic during the summer season.”

She added, “Right now there are so many rumours, including that we are going bankrupt, but it’s actually the opposite. We’re going to continue to bring a taste of the Island to people through our handpies.”

Bennetto O’Brien revamped her restaurant business, Scapes, into the Handpie Company in March.

She is hoping to expand the business after the move to the new location by building a manufacturing plant.

“I believe in Borden-Carleton, and I think big things will come to the area in the future. So, it’s important for us to stay in Borden. We’ve established a base here. We’re familiar with seasonal Islanders, as I call them, and all of the staff is local to the area.

“We don’t have a location for our plant yet, but we hope to establish one in the area over the next one to two years. It’s not ideal, and it’s incredibly expensive, but it’s our only option.”

If there was a facility that was already accessible they would be using it, she said.

However, there is a growing program across the province that is branching out to determine interest in having a manufacturing facility that multiple businesses could use while having separate kitchen spaces, explained Bennetto O’Brien.

With the manufacturing plant comes the possibility of selling handpies across the Island.

“We are currently working with the Holland College Food Sciences program, which is compiling nutritional fact tables and helping us create tamperproof packaging. When we have that, we can sell the handpies across the province.”

But, Bennetto O’Brien doesn’t want to stop there. She is also hoping to sell the product in other provinces. In order to do that, the handpies have to be Canadian Food Inspection Agency approved.

“In order to get CFIA approval, there a number of things that need to happen, including having an approved manufacturing facility.”

One thing Bennetto O’Brien says needs to be improved is stronger relationships with federally inspected producers.

“It’s all about the supply chain. Every ingredient that goes into a handpie has to be approved, and that’s one thing that is lacking. So we need to build on that for more businesses that are planning to expand into small-scale manufacturing.”

Overall, she’s excited about the positive plans.

“It was really empowering to have the chance to step back and look at my business and find out what our most popular item was. At the same time it was terrifying to eliminate 90 per cent of your menu. But I was able to see what we are capable of and how to keep myself and my employees excited for the future.

“We haven’t even come close to scratching the surface of the market. It’s allowed me to see that entrepreneurship is a totally different beast. Yes I am a chef, but I’m a entrepreneur first. I’m so pumped to see where we could go with this.”

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