Helen Papantoniou, Vice President of Operations, shares the successful story of Pita Pan, a company founded in 1972 by her father and uncle, Andre and Kostas Papantoniou. Today, Pita Pan is one of the leading bakeries in North America for flatbread, panini, pizza crust and pita bread, with large wholesale bakery and restaurant chains as customers, including Taco Bell and Quiznos. The company was established when the Papantoniou’s launched Olympia Foods, a Chicago-based gyro meat manufacturing company.
Originally based in Chicago, Pita Pan purchased its existing Chicago Heights facility in 2005. At the time, Pita Pan employed 40 people. Today, Pita Pan employs 90 people, and with its recent 105,000 square foot expansion, the company expects a 50% increase in its staff. The new facility is designed specifically for the baking of flat bread, with its high-efficiency production line easily customized to meet specific customer needs. According to Ms. Papantoniou, when the new, state-of-the-art manufacturing line operates at full capacity, Pita Pan will employ approximately 300 employees.
The main driver for Pita Pan in choosing its location in Chicago Heights was location. The company moved its facility from Chicago to Chicago Heights to avoid the congestion of the city, but still be in close proximity to Chicago and the major highway system, including I-80 and I-94. Pita Pan believes its current location is ideal for the distribution of their products, which they ship worldwide. Most of their products are shipped via truck, but Pita Pan also utilizes the strong rail system within Chicago Heights.
Over the last 7 years, Pita Pan has had a great experience working with Chicago Heights. The city was instrumental in helping the company gain tax incentives to allow the 105,000 square foot expansion. In addition, the city made the overall expansion process an easy and enjoyable one for Pita Pan. Ms. Papantoniou notes that everything from obtaining permits to building inspections has been a positive experience, and the administration at Chicago Heights has fostered a strong relationship with the Pita Pan organization.