Introducing Our Virginia Service Center
07/24/2023 · Newsroom Highlight
When we opened our first North Carolina location in 2019, we knew we would soon need a new distribution center to support our expanding footprint of stores. Our existing distribution centers in Rochester, New York, and Pottsville, Pennsylvania, were quickly reaching capacity servicing our current stores.
“Our southern expansion throughout Virginia and into North Carolina really stretched the limits of our ability to properly service our stores, especially with our emphasis on fresh foods,” said Dave DeMascole, Wegmans Vice President of Supply Chain Planning and Design. “Timely deliveries are an integral part of it, so for both capacity and distance reasons, we began looking at the future of our network several years ago. After considering several options, we identified Hanover County as the ideal location to meet our needs for our existing stores and to support future growth in the region.”
We settled on a location along the I-95 corridor in Ashland, Virginia. The site provides efficient transportation to the 24 stores it services and is easily accessible by our suppliers for deliveries. It’s also located in a vibrant, growing area.
“To support the size of the facility and the number of employees we plan to bring in, we need a strong population to draw from,” said Jake Fox, Wegmans Distribution Network Operations Director.
By mid-2024, when the facility is expected to be fully operational, the Virginia Service Center (VSC) will employ 500 people. Positions include product selectors, quality assurance technicians, warehouse management, human resources professionals, maintenance coordinators, sanitation team members, professional truck drivers, and more.
“The majority of our employees will be hired locally, providing hundreds of jobs for the area, and every time we open a new store in this region, we’ll add more employees,” said Dave. “Our team has also been busy meeting with local nonprofits and businesses to see how we can work together to make a difference. We want to do our part to be a good neighbor in Hanover County.”
Driving Toward a New Career
While many of our drivers are hired externally, Wegmans also offers a driver training program to current employees.
“Through the professional driver program, employees have the opportunity to grow their career without leaving Wegmans,” said Dave. “We pay to put them through driving school, to get their CDL, and then we provide an extended training program. They end up with a great job as a professional driver, and they’re home every day.”
Biniam B. relocated from Ethiopia to Virginia in 2015 to live near family. He joined Wegmans in 2016, working in the produce department at our Midlothian store. When he learned that Wegmans would be offering a driver training program for the new VSC, he jumped at the opportunity to learn more.
“I had an interview and then they put me on a ride along. I drove up to Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and they paired me with a driver,” said Biniam. “They wanted me to see what the actual job looks like. We did one of the longest routes and I got to see the ins and outs. It was a good experience for me.”
Shortly after his ride along, Biniam started his training program. For four weeks, he attended classes at a local school where he learned about road regulations, pre- and post-trip truck inspections, maneuvering on the yard, and eventually driving on the road. When the program ended, Biniam took a DMV road test and earned his CDL license.
“My managers were always following up to see how we were doing,” said Biniam. “Once or twice a week, they were coming to the school, checking in on our progress, checking on us, and showing us appreciation. Their support was great.”
Biniam spent the next eight weeks in an extended training program, making daily deliveries to the local Wegmans stores that he would be servicing in the future. He gained firsthand experience with navigating deliveries at our various locations, troubleshooting issues on the road, and maneuvering tight city blocks to reach our Washington, D.C. store.
Today, Biniam spends his days making daily deliveries to our southern stores from VSC before heading home to his wife and three kids.
“I am very thankful for all I’ve encountered at Wegmans,” said Biniam. “I can go back home at the end of the day, and be there for my wife, my kids, my family.”
Lending a Hand in the Hanover Community
Though VSC just opened its doors, our employees have been in the community making connections for several years already. After helping build a home with the local Habitat for Humanity, we signed on to be the main sponsor for their Fill the Pantry program. Each time a home is completed and ready for turnover to the homeowner, our team fills the pantry with products ranging from cereal and spices to laundry detergent and cleaning supplies.
“We wanted to do things where we would be involved and not just send a check;” said Dave, “It’s a life-changing experience when you get to see it firsthand; building the house, filling the pantry, going to the dedication. It’s moving.”
In 2022, several VSC employees participated in the Airpark 5K. This year, they decided to get involved by sponsoring the event. Collaborating with the organizers, we helped add water stations and found a local supplier to provide shirts for participants.
“We had about 16 to 17 people there from Wegmans as volunteers. We were all over the course, and the organizers said it made all the difference in the world,” said Kevin Bamford, Wegmans Maintenance Facilities Area Manager for VSC. Preparation is already underway for next year’s race.
Since 2016, our local stores have partnered with Feed More, a nonprofit that distributes food to the hungry throughout Central Virginia. In preparation for the opening of our new distribution center, a team of VSC employees visited the Feed More offices to donate a tractor trailer full of approximately 40,000 pounds of non-perishable food to the agency. In addition, the team also presented Feed More with a $10,000 gift to help them provide meals to thousands of individuals across the region.
“Donations like this are especially appreciated during the summer months, when thousands of kids and teens in our region lose access to vital free or reduced lunch programs,” said Laura Gambrel, Feed More’s Senior Procurement Manager. “Because of caring, compassionate and committed partners like Wegmans, Feed More is prepared to serve the 1 in 9 Central Virginians experiencing food insecurity with wholesome, healthy meals in their time of need.”
Various other donations or sponsorships include the Ashland Strawberry Faire, the annual Salute to Heroes event, scholarships for eight local high school seniors, and ongoing support for the United Way of Greater Richmond. In total, the VSC team has already contributed over $300,000 to the local community through sponsorships and donations, but the support doesn’t end there.
“We’re just getting started,” said Jake. “As word gets around, more people are reaching out and sharing different thoughts of how we can continue to get involved in the community, and we’re looking forward to taking advantage of those opportunities.”