It was in 1995 that Big Y Food, Springfield, Mass., expanded its three smaller distribution facilities into the former Rexnord Roller Chain Manufacturing Co. on Roosevelt Avenue in Springfield. At the time, a staff of 27 people distributed produce and other products to 31 supermarkets throughout the region. 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 supports 70 supermarkets out of the same space. The current 189,000-square-foot distribution center boasts 19 receiving bays and operates around the clock 7 days a week with 92 employees moving product through the system.

That’s why Big Y is again expanding its distribution center, to provide capacity for the next 20 years, including 20 new supermarkets. Plans call for a total of 53 dock doors, 152,000 square feet of additional dry product storage, 82,000 square feet of specialized refrigerated storage for various products and an additional 232,000 square feet of space (for a total of close to 425,000 square feet). This expansion is designed to improve the efficiency of the flow of goods to all stores, and will require an additional 32 full-time employees.

“Our goal is always to provide our customers with the freshest produce and best available local products,” says Charles D’Amour, 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.”

Other elements of the expansion include 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 and new products. In addition, the test kitchen can host food tastings and focus groups as well as serve as additional training for store teams. Plans also include a new employee entrance and visitors’ welcome and reception area.

Refrigerated storage is comprised of a 34°F cooler for fresh seafood from Boston piers, deli meats, salads, olives and cheeses; 35°F dry cold storage for fresh berries, apples, oranges and other fruit; wet humid storage for broccoli, kale and other leafy greens; 45°F for fresh flowers and 55°F for tomatoes. All temperature and humidity controls are approved by the FDA and monitored 24/7 to ensure maximum product freshness. Big Y also invested in specialized ripening rooms to check each store’s individual needs. Additional banana ripening rooms will be added to existing ones to further meet the needs of the 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 shipped to area food banks.

Big Y is working with Dennis Group, Springfield, Mass., on the expansion, which is expected to be completed over the next 18 months.