BONIFAY — Business is good at Bonifay’s only destination for hot coffee and killer donuts.
But after over half a dozen years of turning out tasty treats in a shoebox-sized retail location, owners of the Donut Land Express realized the production aspect of their business needs room to grow.
“We just needed a bigger bakery,” said owner Leslie Mingus.
Mingus said they specifically need a larger facility to mass produce donuts for its out-of-town retail locations across the Panhandle and lower Alabama.
The caveat with upsizing in Bonifay is that commercial space that might fit the bakery’s needs is scarce, potentially forcing the owners to look outside of the local area for relocation.
If the bakery moves, it will have to take about 22 jobs with it.
“We employ a lot of people,” Mingus said.“When your employees tell you that you’re the best employer in town, that’s scary.”
The partnering owners eventually turned to the Holmes County Development Commission with their need for expansion. The commission had to get creative in coming up with possibilities to place a new bakery in a county that lacks industrial parks and other tenant-ready space for growing businesses to occupy.
In its Aug. 5th meeting, the development commission discussed a proposal to invest $53,000 to build out enclosed space at the Holmes County Ag Center.
Mark Alvis, a real estate consultant hired by the commission to locate and evaluate such properties, said in an interview that the Ag Center is one of the only real options in the county for utilizing an existing structure for commercial activity.
Commissioners talked in the meeting about the Ag Center being an attractive option because the building has a good roof, loading dock space and plenty of square footage that can be built out to the specifications of business owners needing a place to start up or expand in Holmes County.
Alvis said the county leases use of the Ag Center property from the state and draws revenue from two tenants, a janitorial supply company and a trucking company, that currently operate on the property.
With Donut Land Express in mind, the development commission moved to approach the Board of County Commissioners to ask if they would consider giving the development commission rights to lease out the remaining Ag Center space.
In the meeting, commissioners expressed a desire to keep the 22 jobs the bakery provides in the county. The commission envisions being able to offer rental space to other vendors in the future and discussed ways to stretch the investment budget by possibly employing inmate labor and services from the vocational school to keep construction costs down if the idea becomes a reality.