Although passers-by may not be able to see it, The Sentinel building in Carlisle has already started its transformation into a state-of-the-art pretzel bread factory.
While The Sentinel’s newspaper staff continues to work out of the front of the building, buyers Amish Country Bakehouse have begun extensive renovations to the building, which first opened in 1953.
“A lot of the work has been tearing out the electrical from the press room and throughout the existing building that hasn’t been used in years,” said ACB co-owner Chris Sarago.
The Sentinel’s structure contains many years of cables and wires for various technologies, as newspapers moved from typewriters, to early computer systems, to the cloud-based digital framework of today. Much of this infrastructure was, until recently, routed under a raised floor in The Sentinel’s newsroom, which has been pulled up by Sarago and his company to make way for baking and packaging lines.
“The electrical service, especially going into the press plant, has aged well and is pretty much ideal for our production lines,” Sarago said.
Every room in the former news headquarters will have a new purpose – the Sentinel’s former employee lunch room has had its walls knocked out and extended in anticipation of becoming the dough-mixing room. The east half of the former printing press space will become the gluten-free production line, Sarago said, and the west half will be converted into cold storage for roughly 120 pallets’ worth of baked goods at a time.
An addition is planned to enclose the truck receiving dock on the building’s northeast side, Sarago said, as well as the installation of a large nitrogen tank on the building’s west side. This will be used to flash-freeze “pretzel nuggets” – a snack food that ACB markets to convenience stores and school cafeterias, with production as high as 100,000 nuggets per day.
The very front of the building, facing East North Street, is still being used by The Sentinel’s staff under a lease agreement with ACB.
The newspaper is currently awaiting completion of its new office space in the Wheelhouse building, at the intersection of North College and B streets in Carlisle, with a move of the newspaper’s offices planned for August.
Once that happens, Sarago said, the new pretzel factory should be up and running within a month. The area that is currently still being used by the newspaper will become ACB’s new administrative offices, as well as a retail location.
“At the very least, you’ll be able to come in and buy the products we manufacture here,” Sarago said. “Ideally, we’d like to get it to where we can also serve sandwiches made with our bread, as well as coffee and things like that.”
Once fully operational, ACB’s factory in the Sentinel building will have four separate production lines, a significant increase in capacity over the company’s’ current facilities in Camp Hill and Lancaster. ACB operates several different brands, most prominently All Twisted Pretzel Products.
In February, the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority announced a new round of state-backed loans, including two loans totaling $850,804 at a 2-percent fixed rate to ACB. The loans will be issued through the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation (CAEDC), and will finance the purchase of machinery as well as the acquisition and renovation of the 23,917-square foot Sentinel building and 2.36-acre lot.
Lee Enterprises, the parent company of The Sentinel, put the newspaper headquarters up for sale in the summer of 2016, noting that the building is too large for The Sentinel’s current operations following the outsourcing of printing to the Frederick News-Post.