Whole Foods Market said it expects to complete a 117,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse in Richmond and to begin hiring up to 40 workers for the new distribution center within the month. The new Richmond distribution center will serve over forty Whole Foods Market in Northern California by the end of the year.
In a city with unemployment at just over 13 percent, the new jobs will be highly coveted. Most of the employees at the center are expected to transfer to the new location from the company’s previous facility in San Francisco. However, that leaves 30 to 40 positions in Richmond to fill.
“We are hosting a job fair on April 19 at the Richmond Courtyard Marriot,” said R. Adam Smith, the executive coordinator of store development overseeing the project. “We’re looking to fill picking, inventory and buying jobs and we’ve been in contact with someone at the city around hiring and staffing locally.”
Whole Foods broke ground on the project last May, after signing a contract in late 2011 for the space at Point Pinole Business Park, located at Giant Highway and Atlas roads. The building sits in front of Point Pinole Regional Shoreline—an East Bay Regional Park—and next to the West County Correctional Facility.
The company chose to move from the San Francisco location to Richmond because it outgrew the old facility and needed a place with more space and a centralized location, Smith said.
“After looking at a considerable number of buildings in the Bay Area, none met the clear-height,” Smith said, referring to the 32-feet high ceilings Whole Foods warehouses require. “We decided we needed to build something to suit. And then the other factor was cost of distribution. Our region, here in Northern California, is fairly compact and so having a distribution center in a more centralized locations allowed our cost to be cheaper.”
It’s an area of Richmond without much development, but Jonelyn Whales, senior planner for the City of Richmond is hoping that will change once Whole Foods moves in. The city is ready, Whales said. “Once you get one facility on one of the pads, other businesses will be looking at other pads,” she said. “We’ve gotten the streets all landscaped and everything. We see a future there, we really do.”
Jeff Birdwell, president of the commercial division of the property’s owner, Sares Regis Group of Northern California, agreed with Whales about the area’s potential. “The economy is definitely coming back and we’re seeing pretty strong interest right now on the part of users,” Birdwell said. “It’s wonderful to be in that position again.”
Smith said that currently there aren’t any plans to bring a Whole Foods Market to Richmond, although the company recently announced a new store opening in Berkeley on Gilman Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenue. The nearest Whole Foods Market to Richmond is in Berkeley on Telegraph Avenue, less than 10 miles away.
Whole Foods specializes in foods without artificial preservatives or ingredients and focuses on what its website calls “fresh, wholesome and safe to eat” foods that are organic and locally grown. Environmental stewardship and sustainability are core company values, according to its website. Each store offers large aisles full of fresh produce, meat, dairy products and high quality packaged goods.
Richmond has a number of small markets that sell limited varieties of groceries, but only two large grocery stores, Foods Co. and Smart and Final.
Whole Foods Market started in 1980 in Austin, Texas with 19 employees, but it has grown to become the eighth largest food and drug store in the U.S. In fiscal year 2012, the company reported a 16 percent increase in sales to $11.7 billion, and 36 percent jump in net earnings to $465.6 million.