Gertrude Hawk’s nostalgic future home pays tribute to the company’s past
THROOP — The new building that will house Gertrude Hawk Chocolates’ offices looks more than a smidgen different than most modern local office buildings.
Remembering the last time the company moved its operations 29 years ago, company co-owner David Hawk wanted a new office building with more flair — something that reflects Gertrude Hawk’s history and says Scranton “in a good way.”
The new, 12,000-square-foot office building, located near their existing retail store in the Keystone Industrial Park, will resemble an old factory, but with an LED-powered sign that tells everyone they have arrived where the Hawk family cooks up peanut butter Smidgens, coconut clusters, Jordan crackers and its other chocolate treats. Gertrude Hawk started the company in 1936, at the height of the Great Depression in her family’s home in Scranton’s Bunker Hill neighborhood.
David Hawk, now 66, wanted the new home of his grandmother’s company to touch her era.
“This is going to be our home for years and years to come,” Hawk said. “We felt that it was important to have an appropriate building. I think it says, to me, it’s Scranton ... It kind of gives the heritage and we’re part of the heritage.”
Reflecting the company’s and Scranton’s heritage will cost about $7.6 million, Hawk said.
Gertrude Hawk has to move because it sold its office building/manufacturing plant in the Keystone Industrial Park as part of the sale of its ingredients division to Switzerlandbased Barry Callebaut, one of the world’s largest chocolate and cocoa producers. The deal closed in late October.
Gertrude Hawk employees spent the fall moving chocolate-making equipment across the street and uphill into the company’s 170,000-square-foot distribution center. Grimm Construction of Waymart already installed the foundation for the new office building, which will create an appealing front a bit uphill from the mundane-looking plant.
Manufacturing resumed in the distribution center in time for the holiday rush, though not without some stress, Hawk said.
“We have great employees and they all understood we were in a bind and they had to get out of here,” he said. “They all put their shoulder to the wheel and it’s worked out beautifully.”
The new office building should open in June. About 275 people work for Gertrude Hawk, with about 240 in manufacturing, Hawk said.
Gertrude Hawk opened its original manufacturing plant on Drinker Street in Dunmore in 1962, but moved to the industrial park in 1989, Hawk said.
He said he remembers he and his late father, Elmer R. Hawk, never thought about including offices in the existing building because the Drinker Street plant just had a retail storefront.
“When we designed this, we just saw this as an industrial building,” Hawk said from his office in the existing plant. “The architects came back in and said, ‘You need to put a front in to make it look like an office building in this portion.’ ... We did it and we’ve been thrilled. And so the lesson was if we ever build again, we’re going to make a nice-looking building.”
Hawk said the company outgrew its existing office space years ago, regularly building staff offices in vacant space next to manufacturing equipment.
“So now we’re going to consolidate them back into a real office,” he said. “We wanted it to look like an old industrial mill.”
That means real red bricks, ornamental concrete and large windows forming the exterior.
Old industrial plants had large windows to let in natural light and fresh air when heat from machinery built up unbearably, said Richard Leonori, the architect at Hemmler & Camayd Architects, who designed the new office building. The building will enhance the appearance of the plant, which is “not super attractive,” he said.
“It really will screen most of that,” Leonori said.
The new, 82-feet-long LED sign nods to the sign over Ghirardelli Square, the San Francisco bayfront retail center and former home of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Co., Leonori said.
“We are planning to be able to program it so that the color can be changed to align to a season or a holiday,” Leonori said.
The consolidated offices will house administrative and sales staff from Gertrude Hawk and Drew’s All Natural, a Chester, Vermont company the chocolatier acquired in 2010. Drew’s manufactures organic salad dressings and other condiments.
Hawk said Gertrude Hawk plans to acquire another company similar to Drew’s in the next year or two and perhaps move it here. The company has not identified a potential target, he said.
Gertrude Hawk has about 50 retail stores in a 150-mile radius of the local plant, Hawk said.
Gertrude Hawk co-owner David Hawk holds an artistic rendering of the chocolatier’s new office building at its future location in Throop.