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Father Sam's Pocket Bread is turning to tortillas in its quest to broaden its marketing base.

The Buffalo firm has just completed a $360,000 expansion at its facility in the Thruway Industrial Park and has hired seven new workers to produce a new line of tortilla products.

Samuel A. Sam II, president and chief financial officer, said the firm has landed a major local account and will begin producing tortillas under a private label. He declined to identify the client, but sources say the tortillas will be produced for local supermarkets.

"Within the next year, we plan on searching for national accounts," Sam said. "We're confident that our new line of tortillas will be responsible for creating 15 new jobs in the coming year."

Founded in 1977, Father Sam's previously limited itself to the production of pita bread. The firm produces seven varieties in various shapes and sizes of pocket breads and distributes them to retail outlets in a dozen states.

Within the next year, Sam is predicting that tortilla sales could account for 10 to 15 percent of the firm's overall revenue. He thinks the new venture is a logical extension of the firm's business, allowing it to capitalize on its existing strengths.

"The tortilla market is very competitive nationwide, but there are no major production facilities on the East Coast," he said. "If we dream a little, we could see this becoming a major product line for our company."

The Buffalo Enterprise Development Corp. is assisting the expansion with a $75,000 loan, approved Tuesday by its loan committee.

BEDC President Daniel S. Bicz also credited the Erie County Industrial Development Agency for providing assistance to the growing firm.

"Things are happening very quickly for Father Sam's," Bicz said. "It's really an exciting time for the company and we're pleased to help with this expansion."

The seeds for the family-run business were planted more than a half-century ago when Sam A. Sam, the father of the current president, baked pocket bread as a child, using a Syrian recipe from his great-grandmother.

Father Sam's continues to add to its product mix with its newest pita bread called the "Magic Pocket." The patented design looks more like an eyeglass case than a pocket bread and is used for hot dogs and sausages. A cinnamon-raisin pocket bread also was recently introduced in an effort to court the breakfast market.

The firm currently employs 58 people and envisions its payroll increasing to 66 within the next couple years.

In other BEDC action Tuesday, officials approved a $125,000 loan to help Creditors Interchange Inc. of Cheektowaga expand into the New Buffalo Industrial Park. The move will bring 73 workers into Buffalo and is expected to create 33 new jobs.

The committee also approved a $150,000 loan to Breeser Real Estate Enterprises, which is purchasing Better Wire Products Inc. The Niagara Street firm provides custom wire forming and fabricating for industrial and commercial applications.

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