PRODUCE FIRST OUT OF NEW ANDRONICO'S WAREHOUSE

ALBANY, Calif. (FNS) -- Andronico's Park & Shop here has recently completed the first construction phase of an 80,000-square-foot facility, -- 12,000 square feet of which is dedicated to perishables.The construction is part of the retailer's strategy to capture efficiencies in the distribution channel as it opens new stores. Produce is the first area of the Emeryville, Calif., facility to be completed

ALBANY, Calif. (FNS) -- Andronico's Park & Shop here has recently completed the first construction phase of an 80,000-square-foot facility, -- 12,000 square feet of which is dedicated to perishables.

The construction is part of the retailer's strategy to capture efficiencies in the distribution channel as it opens new stores. Produce is the first area of the Emeryville, Calif., facility to be completed and operational, and the chain's eight units are currently being fully serviced through the facility, according to officials.

By summer's end, the entire perishables warehouse will be totally functional. Adjacent to it, the operator is planning to open a 9,000-square-foot concept unit featuring a new fresh-market format. Two additional Andronico's units are slated to open within the year in the San Francisco Bay area.

The warehouse area in the facility features an open cement area with three high racks, two deep. Of the total area, 5,000 square feet is specifically dedicated to produce. In addition to ambient-air racking, there is 1,000 square feet of wet racking and 2,000 square feet of dry racking. Other features of the new warehouse's produce section include 1,000 square feet of floral preparation space, a 300-square-foot cooler and a hot room for avocado and tomato ripening.

The warehouse is outfitted with six bays, one with a lift gate.

"This move helps us better service our stores," said Larry Murray, vice president of produce. "As we have expanded, inefficiencies did creep in. With the added cooler space, we will be better situated to take advantage of opportunities in making buys, keeping abreast of rotation and being better able to respond to unit needs. We will have more room to store items along with having better temperature controls."

Also put into operation in the warehouse is a 3,000-square-foot liquor area, which is temperature-controlled and adjacent to the produce section.

The warehouse is being completed and put into operation in phases. A cheese and deli-meat area will be the next section to become operational, by June. Bakery and prepared foods warehouse space -- with production facilities -- will follow.

The bakery area is expected to open by September, with the central kitchen facility coming on line in the fall. The opening of the concept store, along with main office space, will round out the construction of the new facility.

Centralizing the bakery and prepared foods production is expected to deepen the chain's commitment to consistency of product, said Patricia Jordan, director of deli operations. Certain cost-cutting measures will also result, said officials. These might include removing some functions from individual units, such as bakery sheet-pan washing, cheese cutting and wrapping and food preparation, among other activities.

A fleet of retailer-owned and operated, multipurpose, 18-foot bobtail produce trucks are delivering goods from the warehouse to the individual units. It is expected that once the bakery and kitchen facilities are up and running, these trucks will be placed on a second run schedule to deliver these items as well.

According to officials, the smaller-size trucks will allow Andronico's to get product to some of the tight, city-style delivery bays.

Additionally, the size means that drivers are not required to carry a class "A" license. To further enhance efficiencies and costs, the operator plans to backhaul paper and cardboard.

Besides the ability to supply its own units, Andronico's has joined up the Internet shopping service Peapod.

Peapod orders will be filled from the new warehouse beginning in June. Produce will be the first area to be operational.