Fantini Baking Company just finished up a two year renovation which added nearly 30,000 square feet to the building. However that isn’t what most folks are excited about. People in the community had been chattering about when their retail location would reopen and on September 13th it opened its doors, to much anticipation. The shop is stocked with a robust assortment of fresh breads cooked just earlier in the day. After trying some of the bread myself, I can see why folks in the community are excited. The taste is unparalleled.
Fantini is a Haverhill success story if there has ever been one. The bakery started in 1902 in a two tenement home at 52 Beach St in Haverhill a pleasant half mile walk from where they are located today in the Mt. Washington neighborhood where it has been since 1972. The bakery was started by Sabatino Fantini, an Italian immigrant who lived upstairs with his wife and children. Today the business is still owned by the Fantini family and has grown exponentially in size to one of the biggest bakeries in the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. What started as a small neighborhood bakery producing a few dozen baked matured into a 21st century industrial sized bakery that goes through 150,000 pounds of flour a month.

Fantini Baking Company has faced challenges like any business. Being located in a the Mt. Washington neighborhood is both difficult and rewarding. Space is at a premium and expansions have always had to be done with a creative touch. Moving a wall out fifteen feet, reconfiguring the retail location, addressing parking and sound concerns are all challenges that the company has faced and overcome. The company has succeeded due to its focus on efficiency and community partnerships.The City of Haverhill has partnered with Fantini throughout its three expansions since it’s been on Washington St. Local food establishments, like Benedetti’s Deli, have long used Fantini’s baked goods in their own businesses. Fantini has played an instrumental role in the Mt. Washington Alliance, a partnership charged with strengthening the Mt. Washington community. Haverhill Bank has consistently worked with Fantini and helped finance their latest expansion and equipment. Fantini’s success has not happened in a vacuum, rather it is a testament to the supportive community and, most importantly, a hard working company.

You can see the how the business has expanded through the years, with the old brick walls and “Fantini” sign still visible in the facility. It gives you a sense of living history. While walking though the bakery floor with Alex Fantini he pointed out the newest in energy efficient technology being used. Everything from five massive automated ovens, to fancy automated hand washing stations throughout the facility. Long winding conveyor belts of bread sprawl overhead like an urban subway system, moving products from one location to another and allowing the bread to cool. The overhead conveyor belt system also helps utilize space in an efficient way and looks super cool. The entire experience is like walking through a very hypnotizing maze - elevators and “lowerators” move bread to different stages in the cooking process, massive towers of rotating bread racks, and walk-in sized humidifiers to help raise the yeast. Each type of bread has its own production line, utilizing its own unique technology and setup. Today Fantini is truly a modern, efficient, and profitable business, up to snuff with the very best.

Alongside of the latest technology are the workers who make the whole operation tick like a finely tuned watch. Fantini has long relied on the surrounding Mt. Washington neighborhood to supply its workforce, and the neighborhood has relied on Fantini to provide a living for for over 115 years. It's a beautiful synergy that has stood the test of time. Fantini has around 200 employees on the payroll, with the vast majority of them living within walking distance of the bakery. Just as Sabatino Fantini made a living for himself as an immigrant, countless others have too thanks to the business he built. While touring the facility I met workers who had been with the company for 15, 20, and even 30 years. The Fantini company is the story of the American Dream.

Fantini continues to be a Haverhill success story and a living example of why it makes sense to do business in Haverhill. Whether companies are making aerospace parts or making bread, the legacy of “Made in Haverhill” lives on. Be sure to add Fantini to your list of places to shop. With over 90 kinds of delicious fresh-baked breads and an equally rich history it is an absolute gem.

Made in Haverhill is a monthly series published in Haverhill Life about manufacturers in Haverhill. Contact us to suggest a business for this column.

Nate Robertson Assistant Director Economic Development, City of Haverhill