The brick building that housed Chillicothe Baking Company 90 years ago and was the first place in the world to sell commercially-sliced bread will be converted into a historic visitors center to share the history of sliced bread with the public.
The brick building that housed Chillicothe Baking Company 90 years ago and was the first place in the world to sell commercially-sliced bread will be converted into a historic visitors center to share the history of sliced bread with the public. The building also will include meeting rooms and escape rooms. The award of $264,000 in Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits through the Missouri Department of Economic Development will bolster these efforts. Overall, the project is estimated at nearly $500,000 and is anticipated to be opened by summer 2019. A formal announcement of the tax credits was made by Rep. Rusty Black (R-Chillicothe) and Sen. Denny Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) during a special event at the building Friday afternoon. “As many of us know, this part of town is starting to see regrowth and, hopefully, when this happens down here, it’s also going to make the surrounding area stronger and stronger,” Black said. The exterior of the building also will be restored. The NAP credits, Hoskins said, “will help turn this into the visitors center that it should be and help promote economic growth in Chillicothe.” Ed Douglas, president of the Sliced Bread Corporation, introduced members of the Sliced Bread Corporation and shared its history with those in attendance as well as with special guests who were present at the event. The corporation dates back to 2003, after it was rediscovered and proven that commercially-sliced bread was first introduced in Chillicothe. Since that time, Douglas stated, the city of Chillicothe adopted “Home of Sliced Bread” as its slogan, a logo was adopted and a website created. Sliced bread merchandise became available for purchase, a mural was created and several annual events with sliced bread themes were introduced, including Sliced Bread Saturday, Sliced Bread Jam and a bread baking contest. A historical marker was placed at the building, the Sliced Bread Corporation purchased the building with support of local foundations; and KCPT produced a complete documentary. One of the original bread-slicing machines is on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and is on display at the local museum. Additionally, legislation was proposed this session to have July 7th declared as Missouri Sliced Bread Day. Douglas noted that Chillicothe has received a lot of publicity regarding sliced bread’s introduction to the world. “People all over the world understand this story,” Douglas said. Sliced bread has been featured for audiences of Reader’s Digest, New York Times, and Good Morning America, to name just a few. Sliced bread’s interest is reflected in the popular saying, “It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.” “People say it all over and say it all the time,” Douglas said. “No one says ‘that’s the greatest thing since the cell phone, or the iPad, or the airplane or the internet. The reason this is important is about innovation and entrepreneurship. “Everyone knows the saying, ‘It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread,’” Douglas said. “It really is the standard of all innovation – past, present and future. That’s why it’s really important.” Douglas said that the plan is to sell the tax credits this year, with the idea that renovation can begin next spring and that the facility would be open by summer 2019. Several board members spoke at the event about various aspects of the project. EXTERIOR RENOVATION The project will include exterior renovation. Board member Ben White said that plans include repainting “Chillicothe Baking Co.” on the sides of the building. The faint image of the bakery’s name is still visible at the top of the building on the south and east sides. “There is a lot of history here,” White said. “It’s the heritage of our community. We are looking forward to making it look good on the outside for visitors to want to come in and visit us.” VISITORS CENTER Amy Supple, director of the Greater Chillicothe Visitors Region, thanked Rep. Black and Sen. Hoskins for their support of tourism. “Tourism is an important economic generator,” Supple said. In Livingston County, for fiscal year 2016, there was an economic impact from tourism of $21 million, Supple said, stating that those figures were provided through Missouri Division of Tourism research. “A lot of people think we’re a small, rural community and there really isn’t any tourism,” she said. Supple noted that the county has 500 jobs that are tourism related or tourism dependent. “There are 21 million dollars coming into this community, on average, every year from visitors spending money,” she said. “It’s really huge.” Two words important in tourism now are “story” and “experience.” “Renovating this building will allow us to do both of those,” Supple said. “It is going to allow us to tell our story, which is the story of sliced bread and the history of innovation. And, it is going to allow visitors some really fun experiences.” Details have yet to be worked out but Supple said the facility will pay homage to innovation and sliced bread as well as fellow “geniuses” along U.S. Highway 36. MEETING SPACE Matt Trussell explained that the facility will offer multipurpose, multi-functional usage. “The vision for this space ties back into innovation and entrepreneurship,” Trussell said. “We’d like to see business leaders, small groups, and school groups utilize this for functions, meeting areas, team building and leadership development.” ESCAPE ROOMS A third component of the Home of Sliced Bread Visitors Center is the creation of escape rooms. These rooms are adventure games in which participants solve a series of puzzles using clues, hints and strategy to escape from a locked room within a given time frame. Kinnison McKay explained that escape rooms provide entertaining team-building opportunities for groups of friends, co-workers, and family members. “A lot of people in Chillicothe will travel to Kansas City to go do an escape room,” McKay said. One escape room will have the theme of U.S. Highway 36’s Way of American Genius. The other room will be rotated out with various themes. “The big thing here is that it will offer an opportunity for fun and team building opportunities and will have the potential for retreats for area businesses.” The overall project in Chillicothe is a way to promote tourism all along U.S. Highway 36’s Way of American Genius, Douglas said. Among the geniuses he mentioned: Mark Twain (Hannibal), Walt Disney (Marceline), Gen. John J. Pershing (Laclede), J.C. Penney (Hamilton), and the Pony Express (St. Joseph). “It’s a great story so we can promote that at the same time,” he said. “We have some great thoughts as to what this will look like.” Among those present at Friday’s announcement was Debbie Colton, of Chillicothe, whose great uncle was Frank Bench, who owned and operated Chillicothe Baking Company when sliced bread was introduced on July 7, 1928. TAX CREDITS Steve Holt explained the process of purchasing tax credits. The NAP program is an incentive to get people to donate to projects across Missouri, he said. “In some cases, the benefit can be significant depending upon the tax bracket you are in,” he said. Holt outlined the tax credit program. The Home of Sliced Bread Corporation has Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits available for eligible donations. If you will have a business tax liability for 2018, the 70 percent tax credits made available can help you and help the Home of Sliced Bread Corporation. A $497,422 campaign is under way to renovate the original Home of Sliced Bread building that will be utilized to serve the citizens and businesses of Chillicothe, Mo. The complete donation is applied to the building renovation project. “The project is not just about building renovation,” Holt said. “It’s about enriching our lives and enhancing our community now and in the future.” Anyone with questions regarding the purchase of tax credits may contact Steve Holt at email@example.com or 660-973-6655.