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Co-op moving to single facility

FARR WEST -- Associated Food Stores will close three Salt Lake warehouses and a Payson warehouse to move all its distribution facilities under one roof in a former Rite Aid warehouse.

Associated Food Stores plans to relocate to the new facility, at 1875 W. 2550 North in Farr West, over the next 14 months. During that time, the Farr West building will be expanded by 305,000 square feet, bringing the entire distribution center to just under 1 million square feet.The corporate headquarters will remain in Salt Lake City.

The move will affect about 700 people out of the 1,400-member work force.

"It is anticipated that each person at the affected Associated warehouses will be able to choose from either a job or a generous severance package," according to Paul Jones, human resource director for Associated Food Stores.

Also, some Rite Aid warehouse employees will be given the chance to become Associated Food Stores workers.

For some people who work at the current Salt Lake Associated Food Stores facilities, a commute to Farr West might not be difficult. But for Payson employees, Farr West is 105 miles away and the drive might prove cumbersome.

Associated Food Stores runs three warehouses in Salt Lake City. Two buildings are near 1850 West and 2100 South, one holding grocery and produce and the other holding frozen foods. The third Salt Lake warehouse at about 900 West and 2300 South stores meat and deli products.

The Payson facility handles general merchandise.

Associated Food Stores is a cooperative that provides warehouse facilities and services to 580 independent grocers throughout the Intermountain West.

Cooperative officials originally planned to build a new warehouse next to its main Salt Lake location but decided instead to buy and expand the Farr West building because it would save time and money.

"Having it all under one roof is the most important thing," said Steve Reich, vice president of marketing/communications. "Right now, we're spending a lot of time shuttling back and forth to those warehouses."

The separate locations mean a lot of duplicated effort, he said. "Right now, we're spending a lot of time unloading various orders on our docks to combine them."

An example would be a meat truck loaded with meat products for five different stores that needs to get meat to Duane's Food Town in Fillmore. The meat truck would have to go to the produce warehouse, unload the other stores' meat, and stock the truck with produce for Duane's before heading off to Fillmore. Sometimes products must be handled two or three times.

"With consolidated loads, you can put produce, meat and deli on the same refrigerated truck," Reich said.

The new building will mean that groceries can be handled more efficiently and can get to the retailers faster. Also, Reich said this will mean some cost savings that retail grocers can pass along to customers.

The renovation of the Farr West building and the move will take place in stages over the next 14 months, so that will give employees time to decide what they want to do, Reich said.

"Most of the ones from Payson who are considering going up there are obviously looking to relocate," Reich said.

Others might seek work elsewhere, Reich said. "We're kind of a family company, and a lot of these people have a long history with us. We guarantee we're going to have some kind of severance package in place to kind of help them out."