A historic Joplin bakery has new life.

Almost exactly one year after General Mills announced it would close its Annie’s bakery manufacturing plant in Joplin, HS Baking Enterprises, a Midwest-based contract baker, held a news conference Tuesday to outline the company’s plans to purchase the building and reopen it.

“HS Baking has chosen Joplin as their flagship bakery location,” said Max Jones, who will be the company’s plant manager in Joplin. “We are very excited about all the support we have received. We had been searching for the perfect facility for some time. When we found this plant in Joplin, we knew it would be a great fit.”

The location, at 1401 W. Junge Blvd., is the site of the former Junge Biscuit Co., which, along with Junge Bread Co., was incorporated in 1944 after Junge Baking Co., in its original form, dissolved. Junge Baking Co. was formed in March 1900 by August Junge. Junge Biscuit Co. opened in the Junge Boulevard location in 1951.

In March 1952, Safeway Bakery purchased the building and made it one of the area’s largest suppliers of crackers and cookies. Under Safeway, the Junge plant supplied 1,200 of the company’s stores. In 2014, Annie’s, which is based in California, acquired the plant from Safeway. It was purchased again in September of that year by General Mills.

HS Baking is making a $3 million initial investment in Joplin and expects to spend $5 million more over the next five years. The plant will employ 60 people when it opens, and Jones said that within a year’s time, the operation could come close to replacing all 120 jobs that were lost when the plant closed in December 2015. Jones said the estimated reopening date has been set for Nov. 1.

The Joplin City Council on Monday approved providing $50,000 in a forgivable loan to HS Baking as part of an incentive package to lure the new company. The money comes from federal Community Development Block Grant funds, and HS Baking must create at least 50 jobs with at least 26 falling into a low- to moderate-income bracket for the loan to be forgiven.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon attended Tuesday’s event, where he lauded the state’s economic and business climate.

“Missouri makes the best products in the world because we’ve got the best workers in the world,” he said. "Missourians get up early, they stay late, they take training, and they compete.”

Nixon said while any economic development project is important, he was glad to see jobs being created in a 65-year-old plant.

“It felt good to walk through there,” he said of the building. “And talking to people around town, there are people that worked here for the three different organizations, that worked in this facility. The fact that they’re going to do things in there that are extremely similar to what was done before means that the workforce here, some of the folks will be coming back to work in a place they thought was shuttered and gone.

“The emotional win, an economic development win like that is significant and a shot in the arm for the community,” he said.

HS Baking will hold a job fair today and Thursday. Jones said while the plant's previous employees won't have any formal priority in hiring, the experience of having worked there would give prospective workers "a leg up."

August Junge founded his company with the help of a $20,000 loan from his father, which covered the cost of the building, its machinery, horses and wagons. Junge, 20 years old at the time, drew up the plans for the building himself. Junge Baking Co. first opened at 18th Street and Joplin Avenue. The company expanded rapidly, requiring expansions of the existing building, as well as the construction of a new one in the 1800 block of Main Street. Over its lifetime, the company and its subsidiaries produced bread, crackers and cookies.

Job fair

HS Baking specializes in cookies, crackers and snack bar products. The company will conduct employment sessions from 4 to 7 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at the Missouri Department of Economic Development's Career Center, 105 Range Line Road, Suite 2. Information: 417-629-3000.  

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