ITHACA, N.Y. — It hasn’t been the easiest year for Emmy’s Organics, but the homegrown organic treat maker hopes to start its next chapter with a renovated facility in the Town of Dryden.

Emmy’s had initially planned to build its new $1.4 million headquarters, warehouse, and food processing facility on the southern tip of Cherry Street in the city’s West End neighborhood, with room for a future expansion. They had earned city approval, the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) had agreed to sell them the land and provide a low-interest loan, and they had lined up an abatement from the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency to move forward. Then came the soil testing results.

The land couldn’t support a slab foundation, and the only way to make the project feasible would have been to invest in deep foundation piles, or remove the top three feet of soil. In either case, the work involved would have been prohibitively expensive for Emmy’s to pursue its new HQ. So, much to the city and county’s dismay, the project, with its new facility and new jobs, was shelved.

That wasn’t the end of Emmy’s Organics’ plans, however. The firm, founded by locals Samantha Abrams and Ian Gaffney in 2009, and which got its start at the Ithaca Farmers Market, has continued to grow at a steady clip. Their organic cookies can be found in many stores across the country – Wegman’s, Whole Foods, Starbucks, CVS and Rite Aid, to name a few, and over 30 million cookies were sold last year. The company has filled their existing property to the brim, and needs to find or build a bigger space. With 30% business growth last year, some of the work was forced to contract out work to out-of-state businesses to meet existing orders, and if Emmy’s couldn’t find a new place to call home soon, it could have been the end of their time in Tompkins County.

But, it seems the firm has found a new place to take root – 15 Royal Road in Dryden, currently owned by the F&T Distributing Company, whose work focuses on foodstuffs (chips, cookies, and specialty foods). Emmy’s would purchase the 14-year-old building and renovate the 20,000 square-foot facility to serve as its new home base, bringing back in the cookie production work that had been contracting out, and moving everything back under one roof. The project is a renovation rather than a new build and includes adding a processing room, additional office space and bathrooms along with the purchase of new food processing equipment to make their organic, gluten-free vegan products.

The $2.36 million project would add five jobs to Emmy’s current workforce of 27. Emmy’s Organics is seeking a tax abatement from the IURA, for a standard property tax abatement and sales and mortgage tax exemptions. If granted, the request would save Emmy’s $152,715 in taxes, while generating $387,502 in paid tax revenue over the same time period.

“This project is a financial leap for Emmy’s to own its own facility. We want to stay in the area and this project will cost more than buying a facility in outlying areas. The assistance of the IDA will help us to make the project financially feasible and phase in the increased property taxes over time, preserving cash for company growth,” wrote co-founder Ian Gaffney in the application.

IDA members will discuss the application at their meeting next week, with a potential vote for the abatement in July. If all goes well, the property sale will take place in mid-July, and with bank financing already in place, renovations would begin soon after, pending a building permit from the town of Dryden.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.