Food distribution company to lay off workers in Atlanta

A Delaware-based perishable food distribution and warehousing company will cut 160 Georgia jobs and shut down its Atlanta warehouse in the coming weeks, The News Journal of Delaware confirmed on Wednesday.

Burris Logistics will also lay off an undisclosed number of workers in two cities New Castle, Del. and Elkton, Md. after losing a major contract with the grocery store chain The Fresh Market.

"A reduction in force is always difficult for our employees and our operations," said Robert Sliwa, an executive vice president and general counsel at Burris. "We are trying to place people in other positions where we can and plan to offer severance to those we cannot."

The company is still trying to determine the exact number of workers who will be given pink slips at the New Castle and Elkton warehouses from late March to early May, Sliwa said.

Fewer than 50 of the roughly 80 employees in New Castle are expected to be laid off, while only a handful of support staff in Elkton may be affected, he added.

All employees at those facilities were notified of the pending workforce reductions in recent weeks, he said.

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The layoffs come less than a year after Burris Logistics lost a long-running supply deal with The Fresh Market, a North Carolina-based specialty grocery retailer with nearly 180 stores in 24 states. The chain opened its first Delaware location near Rehoboth Beach last summer.

Weeks later, The Fresh Market inked a new long-term supply deal with the Minnesota-based wholesaler and distributor Supervalu. That contract spelled the end of The Fresh Market's nearly decade-long relationship with Burris Logistics, which last signed a one-year contract with the grocery chain in 2015.

Burris Logistics' 264,000-square-foot distribution center in Atlanta that is slated for closure exclusively serves Fresh Market stores. Layoffs there are expected to begin later this month.

The company announced last week that it plans to soon begin construction of a 250,000-square-foot warehouse and attached office on 55 acres it recently purchased in McDonough, about 30 miles south of downtown Atlanta. The new facility is expected to employ 75 workers when finished in early 2018 – roughly half the workforce the company currently has in Georgia.

"We are asking people at our Atlanta facility if they want to be considered for jobs at the new warehouse," Sliwa said. "But that facility will not be up and running for several months."

The company's 135,000-square-foot warehouse off Centerpoint Boulevard in New Castle supplies frozen food and perishables to both The Fresh Market and Acme Markets, among other customers. Job cuts there are slated to begin in April and continue through May, Sliwa said.

"That facility will remain open and operating to serve our other customers," he said. "We're currently looking for new customers to help refill our New Castle site."

The company's 222,000-square-foot warehouse in Elkton employs about 300 workers who supply BJ's Wholesale Club with frozen and perishable goods. However, a handful of employees there who work in purchasing and finance also are expected to be impacted by the impending job cuts, Sliwa said.

Founded in 1925, Burris Logistics began as a father-and-son operation that shipped tomatoes from the Delmarva Peninsula to Philadelphia and then carried bread to local Acme Markets on the return trip. Now a fifth generation, family-owned company, Burris operates 17 warehouse and distribution sites on the East Coast. The company currently employs 1,800 in eight states, including 300 spread across its headquarters in Milford and storage facilities in New Castle and Harrington.

Contact business reporter Scott Goss at sgoss@delawareonline.com or on Twitter @ScottGossDel.

(© 2017 The News Journal)


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