It was in 1995 that Big Y expanded its three smaller distribution facilities into the former Rexnord Roller Chain Manufacturing Co. on Roosevelt Avenue in Springfield, Massachusetts. At the time, a staff of 27 people distributed produce and other products to their 31 supermarkets throughout the region. Three years later, Big Y’s corporate headquarters and store support center moved to the same site.
Now, Big Y’s distribution center supports 70 supermarkets. The current 189,000-s.f. distribution center has 19 receiving bays and operates around the clock, seven days a week with a staff of 92 people moving product through the system. In 1995, Big Y distributed 3.5 million cases of product per year from this facility. Eight years ago, Big Y’s distribution center team shipped out nearly 15 million cases to its stores. By the end of last year, that number had increased to more than 20 million cases.
The company is now planning an expansion in order to provide capacity for the next 20 years, including 20 new supermarkets. Big Y anticipates a total of 53 dock doors are needed to manage its growth along with an additional 232,000 s.f. of space for a total of close to 425,000 s.f., the size of nearly 10 football fields. This expansion will improve the efficiency of the flow of goods to all of Big Y’s stores, the company says, and will require an additional 32 full-time employees at the site.
The expanded facility will include 152,000 s.f. of additional dry product storage and 82,000 s.f. 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 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 its bananas, Big Y utilizes specialized ripening rooms, and additional banana ripening rooms will be added to the facility.
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 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 the time and expense of driving to Big Y’s individual stores while ensuring freshness and quick deliveries. Big Y says this expansion will make it more efficient for them to get their fresh produce to the distribution center.
Other local partners also are using Big Y’s distribution center in order to get their products to Big Y’s stores. Springfield’s La Fiorentina Pastry Shop distributes its pastries to the center to keep them fresh as the shop does not have the capability to deliver its 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 adds.
The company has worked with Kevin Kennedy, chief development officer of the Office of Planning and Development for the city of Springfield along with Springfield Mayor Domenic 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.
The expansion is expected to be completed over the next 18 months. Other elements of the project will 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 its 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 a visitor welcome and reception area.
“Our goal is always to provide our customers with the freshest produce and best available local products,” said Charles D’Amour, Big Y president and COO. “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 operates 78 locations throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut, including 70 supermarkets, 39 pharmacies, Fresh Acres Market, Table & Vine Fine Wines and Liquors and six Big Y Express gas and convenience locations, throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts with more than 11,000 employees.