Friday, February 23, 2018
It was in 1995 that Big Y expanded its three smaller distribution facilities into the former Rexnord Roller Chain Manufacturing Company on Roosevelt Ave. in Springfield, MA. At the time, a staff of 27 people distributed produce and other products to their 31 supermarkets throughout the region. And, three years later, Big Y’s corporate headquarters and Store Support Center moved to the same site.
Fast forward to 2018 where Big Y’s distribution now supports 70 supermarkets out of the same space and it is easy to see the need for an expanded facility. The current 189,000 square foot distribution center has 19 receiving bays and operates round the clock 7 days a week with a staff of 92 moving product through this system. In 1995, they distributed 3.5 million cases of product a year from this facility. Even 8 years ago, Big Y’s distribution center team shipped out nearly 15 million cases to their stores. By the end of last year, that number had increased to over 20 million cases.
Plans include an expansion in order to provide capacity for the next 20 years including 20 new supermarkets. Currently, they anticipate a total of 53 dock doors are needed to manage their growth along with an additional 232,000 square feet of space for a total of close to 425,000 square feet the size of nearly 10 football fields. This expansion will improve the efficiency of the flow of goods to all of their stores and will require an additional 32 full time employees at this site. It will include 152,000 square feet of additional dry product storage and 82,000 square feet of specialized refrigerated storage for various products. Refrigerated storage is comprised of a 34 degree cooler for fresh seafood from Boston piers, deli meats, salads, olives and cheeses; 35 degree dry cold storage for fresh berries, apples, oranges and other fruit; wet humid storage for broccoli, kale and other leafy greens; 45 degrees for fresh flowers and 55 degrees for tomatoes. All temperature and humidity controls are approved by the FDA and monitored 24/7 to ensure maximum product freshness. In order to control the quality of their bananas, Big Y utilizes specialized ripening rooms as they check each store’s individual needs. Additional banana ripening rooms will be added to their existing ones to further meet the needs of their expansion.
Big Y’s distribution center also houses a large recycling area for cardboard and plastic wrap and serves as a staging ground for meat donations as they are sent to area food banks. Currently, local farmers have the option of delivering their fruits and vegetables to this distribution facility in order to save them the time and expense of driving to Big Y’s individual stores while ensuring freshness and speedy deliveries. This expansion will make it more efficient for them to get their fresh produce to the distribution center so that they can quickly get back to their farms.
Many other local partners rely on making just one convenient trip to Big Y’s distribution center in order to get their products easily to Big Y’s stores. Springfield’s La Fiorentina Pastry Shop benefits from this convenient way to distribute their pastries and to keep them fresh as they simply do not have the capability to deliver their pastries to several locations. This expansion will help many local vendors including Chicopee Provision Co. and Millie’s Pierogi sell more local products in the area.
Big Y has worked with Kevin Kennedy, Chief Development Officer of the Office of Planning and Development for the city of Springfield along with Mayor Domenic J. Sarno to develop a plan for this $35-40 million project. In addition, Big Y is working with Springfield based Dennis Group, a local full service planning, architecture, engineering and construction management firm on this project. It is expected to be completed over the next 18 months.
“First of all, Big Y and the D’Amour family have been an outstanding corporate citizen. This expansion highlights my administration’s continued efforts to not only bring in new business development, but just as importantly, to assist old stalwart establishments such as Big Y, MassMutual and Smith & Wesson to expand and continue to thrive right here in our Springfield. I am so appreciative of Big Y’s continued belief and investment in our city. ‘Great product, great employees and great leadership – and oh, by the way, my wife Carla is in Big Y two to three times a week too!’” said Mayor Domenic J. Sarno.
Other elements of this expansion include some renovation within Big Y’s headquarters including a new employee café and a test kitchen to develop and test new recipes, concepts, meals, dietary and nutritional options as well as new products before rolling them out to their consumers. In addition, the test kitchen can host food tastings and focus groups as well as serve as additional training for store teams each week. Plans also include a new employee entrance and visitors welcome and reception area.
According to Big Y President and COO, Charles L. D’Amour “Our goal is always to provide our customers with the freshest produce and best available local products. We are bursting at the seams and this expansion will allow us to better serve our customers and supply our stores. We’re proud to call Springfield our home and look forward to continuing to support our local communities and local partners.”
Big Y Foods, Inc. is one of the largest independently owned supermarket chains in New England. Big Y operates 78 locations throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut including 70 supermarkets, 39 pharmacies, Fresh Acres Market, Table & Vine Fine Wines and Liquors and 6 Big Y Express gas and convenience locations throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts with over 11,000 employees. Big Y has been named a 2015 Employer of Choice by the Employers Association of the Northeast. Founded in 1936 by brothers Paul and Gerald D'Amour, the store was named after an intersection in Chicopee, Massachusetts where two roads converge to form a "Y".