One Sunday morning, in March of 1964, I met Bruce Underwood. Bruce’s father owned the Ellery General Store, which was at least five miles from everything. As we drank a soda together, we talked about the opportunity for someone to build a hot dog stand right there next door to the General Store.
The following Sunday, Bruce’s father, who had heard our previous conversation, asked, “When are you guys going to build that hot dog stand?” As we looked at each other in surprise, his dad offered to lease us the land next to the General Store for $1 a year, for 99 years. What a deal! We couldn’t turn it down. We could do this evenings and weekends. With a handshake, we each agreed to borrow $500 and become partners in this new beginning.
We started the very next day. Two of our friends bought an old building for salvage and sold us all the 2” x 4” and 2” x 8” wood we could tear out for $50.00. Neither of us had any building knowledge, so we were fortunate when the carpenter across the street kindly offered to instruct us as we attempted to build our 15’ x 24’‚ hot dog and pizza stand, called the B & B Drive-In (we decided to add pizza to the menu and it was my responsibility to come up with the recipe and I did! It was square, thick and delicious).
Finally, the building was built. It had doors and windows, but wasn’t painted. We had no plumbing or electricity! No equipment, except for the oven we bought for $60, a used hot water tank from a friend, and a used sink. And guess what? We were broke. We needed $1,500 to complete and open the B & B Drive-In.
Bruce suggested that the bank might lend us $1,500; after all, we now had a piece of real estate. We went to the bank and they laughed at the two guys who were trying to build a drive-in restaurant five miles from everything. We wouldn’t give up. I wanted this more than anything. This is what I dreamed of all my life. Somehow, we had to open the drive-in so that we could earn the money to finish what we started.
We went to the local fire department and borrowed a couple of folding tables and two refrigerators. We ran a hose from the general store to the hot water tank and a hose from the hot water tank to the sink, supplying us with hot water. We ran an extension cord from the general store to a cup hook in the ceiling. We had one light bulb. Then, we called our suppliers and they agreed to deliver the food supplies we needed on credit. The day before we opened, I painted a 4’ x 4’ piece of plywood white and with the white paint still wet I painted the word “OPEN” in black.
On Friday, July 3, 1964, we opened the B & B Drive-In. We started selling pizzas before we realized that we forgot to order pizza boxes. Pizzas were ready to come out of the oven and there was nothing to put them in. I ran next door to the General Store and borrowed some brown grocery bags. In the beginning we borrowed the land, the money, the equipment, the food supplies, the electricity and the water. We even borrowed the brown paper bags to carry out the very first pizzas ever sold.
Today, our company is called Better Baked Foods, Inc. We are the creators of French Bread Pizza and the largest manufacturer of hand-held single-serve microwaveable French Bread Pizza in the world. Our core strength is still baking. Our motto is “To do better today what you did well yesterday.”
Today, Better Baked Foods Inc. has four plants and 500 associates who produce and sell over 150 million pounds of frozen baked goods and French Bread Pizza annually. In the future they will continue to follow the founder’s blueprint for growth. New products are constantly being developed in their R & D department. Ongoing capital investments each year ensure the facilities remain state of the art, and Better Baked Foods remains a low-cost producer.
Better Baked Foods, Inc. – Westfield Bakery Operations
25 Jefferson Street
Westfield, NY 14787
Robert S. Miller – Owner and Chairman of the Board
Christopher R. Miller – Chief Executive Officer
Richard S. Steele – Senior Vice President of Corporate Development / Chief Financial Officer
Tom C. Caron – Senior Vice President of Business Development
Joseph A. Pacinelli – President / Chief Operating Officer