Written by The Business Journal Staff
Exeter’s largest private employer is now Svenhard’s Swedish Bakery, which has been cranking out sweet rolls since the first of the year and now employs around 190 people, according to operating officer David Kunkel.
“We hired 160 locals recently to add to some 30 who came down from Oakland,” Kunkel said, adding that “we need about 30 more“ as the transplanted company settles in.
Svenhard’s has owned the former Dixie Yarns plant building since 1993 but has only recently relocated their entire operation to the Central Valley from the Bay Area.
“Bay Area wages are prohibitive,” said Kunkel, who added that “all workers here have a fair wage and health plan represented by the Teamsters Union.”
Kunkel said “there is a good work ethic” in the Valley.
The bakery is using just about half the sprawling plant — the rest leased out to a supplier. They have another 40 acres for future expansion, said Kunkel who now commutes to work from Fresno.
Founder Ronnie Svenhard, now retired at age 82, lives in Exeter as does his niece Michelle Barnett, who chairs the board of directors.
Kunkel himself is part owner as are other Svenhard family members and Kunkel brags that now that it says ‘Made in Exeter’ on the package, the company is getting reports the product’s taste is “best ever.”
He added that there are plans to reintroduce favorite products from the past in the next few years.