Original Crunch Roll Factory becomes SUNY Fredonia’s first partner

Fredonia President Virginia Horvath and Dr. Kevin Kearns, vice president for Fredonia’s Engagement and Economic Development division (right), discuss benefits of the university’s new partnership with The Crunch Roll Factory officials Zachary Bohn, president (left) and Mark Bohn, director.

The first company to begin operations in Chautauqua County through the State University of New York at Fredonia’s StartUp NY program has helped to write a “blueprint” for creating new jobs through public-private partnerships.

Attracting Original Crunch Roll Factory LLC through the Fredonia StartUp NY program is a huge win for the company, the university and the region, said Kevin Kearns, vice president of Fredonia’s Engagement and Economic Development division.

At the same time, Crunch Roll is creating internship opportunities for Fredonia students and helping to stock grocery shelves with a unique line of frozen snacks produced in Westfield.

“Not only has Crunch Roll brought approximately 20 new jobs to the area, they are working closely with our academic programs and students to provide real world experience and job skills training,” said Dr. Kearns, who oversees the Fredonia StartUP NY program. “The collaboration between Fredonia, the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency and Crunch Roll is a blueprint for attracting more companies and jobs to our area and for developing public-private partnerships that stimulate and grow the local economy.”

Zachary Bohn, Crunch Roll president, indicated he was drawn to Westfield by the partnership with Fredonia, StartUP NY incentives, support from the Chautauqua County IDA, availability of property and overwhelming support from the town of Westfield.

Fredonia is one of three public universities partnering with businesses that are projected to generate 200 new jobs and investments of approximately $5.5 million over the next five years in Western New York. StartUP NY creates tax-free zones on or near colleges and universities that provide significant tax incentives to businesses committed to starting up, expanding or relocating in the state.

Kearns underscored the significance of the three-way agreement between Fredonia, Crunch Roll and the county IDA to attract the new operation, and also lauded the IDA for providing pivotal support of the company’s startup business needs.

Located in a shuttered pierogi factory in the heart of Westfield’s industrial corridor, Crunch Roll opened in 2017 and currently employs 18 people. Additional jobs are to be created within the next six months. Total investments in the facility that encompassed electrical and HVAC upgrades, acquisition and installation of specialized equipment and modifications to the food production area exceeded $2 million, according to Mr. Bohn.

“We are very excited to grow our relationship with the students of Fredonia,” said Bohn, a 22-year-old entrepreneur and a junior majoring in Management at Canisius College. “This partnership provides us with an asset of overwhelming talent across all academic disciplines.”

Ongoing projects will lead to credit-bearing internships that will connect in-class theory to Crunch Roll business plans.

“Fredonia’s state-of-the-art facilities will provide our partnership with the necessary equipment and technology needed to bring various aspects of our business onto the campus,” Bohn added.

Crunch Roll is currently working with students in the Department of Visual Arts and New Media who are helping to develop marketing materials and also with School of Business students to craft a marketing strategy to promote Crunch Rolls on other campuses.

The Original Crunch Roll Factory produces frozen snack foods that are sold to restaurants and other food service operations, both directly and through a network of distributors. Its two most popular items are the Buffalo Chicken Crunch Roll (tender white meat chicken cooked in the company’s own Buffalo sauce, and mixed with a special blend of cheeses) and Banana Pepper Crunch Roll (Hungarian banana peppers mixed with a four-cheese blend, chopped garlic and spices). Both are wrapped in a crispy, crunch shell that provides a unique crunch.

Bohn was excited to designate Fredonia as the first campus to serve its newest flavor, Mac N Cheese Crunch Roll, which was developed with input from the Faculty Student Association, the not-for-profit organization that provides auxiliary services to the campus. It pays homage to “Cheesy Friday,” a beloved Fredonia culinary tradition. All three Crunch Roll varieties are sold on campus at Centre Pointe in the Williams Center. More flavors are being developed.

From their debut at a family-owned restaurant in downtown Buffalo in 2015, Crunch Rolls are distributed throughout the Northeast, down to Florida and now as far as Texas and California. Locally, they are carried at Tops Friendly Markets, Tuscany Fresh Meats & Deli and Dash’s Markets. They are available in a total of nine states.

“We’re really staying busy. Crunch Rolls are now available in select 7-Eleven convenience stores, with an initial launch of 600 locations,” added Bohn.

According to Empire State Development, 16 businesses are committed to opening, expanding or locating in Western New York through StartUP NY partnerships with three universities. To be eligible for StartUP NY incentives, a business must locate or relocate to an approved “tax-free” zone on or near a university, be approved that sponsoring university and not be in direct competition with existing businesses.