Food City Distribution Center in Abingdon, Virginia

Food City delivery truck
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The Food City Distribution Center is where all the items come in from vendors, are stored and organized, then shipped out to 120 Food City Stores.

Food City Director of Distribution, Buddy Honaker, pointed out the locations of the various warehouse on a map of the 45 acre campus.

"This is our perishable operation, this is our freezer, this is our produce operation, this is our health and beauty and specialty foods.This is our Misty Mountain here. This is dry grocery our center store here," he said.

The freezer warehouse is especially cool.

"Ice cream is important to us and everybody in this warehouse knows the importance of keeping it cold," Mark Hartzog said.

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They keep it really cold. Ice cream arrives from the suppliers at minus 20 degrees.

"When we ship the product we have to maintain the minus 20 and by doing that we'll put it in the ice cream boxes we have there. Once we put the ice cream in there we'll add an additional 10 pounds of dry ice which is minus 109 degrees. It will maintain the minus 20 for about 12 or 14 hours. That gives it ample time to get to the store where they can get it unloaded and into the coolers," he said.

Mark Hartzog knows everything about the place. He's worked his way up to Warehouse Manager.

"I've just loved it from day one, 32 years ago, October 5."

There's very little turnover at the Food City Distribution Center, the DC for short. Many employees put in double digit years of service in double digit below zero temperatures.

"For the new people that I interview before I hire them one of the things I do is I don't give them a jacket. They will sit in my office for about 15 minutes and then we come out I want them to experience the shock of minus 18 degrees," he said. "If they can go in there and come back out and say they want the job, they've got the job."

The jobs in the freezer warehouse require physical stamina and a willingness to adapt to the cold conditions. The company supplies appropriate attire.

"A lot of the guys will wear a couple pair of socks. But you will see guys come in with shorts and tank tops on," Mark said.  "They will put on the insulated bibs which is good for minus 20. They will put the insulated coats on BUT underneath that will be there gym shorts and t-shirts," he said. "Most of the guys here feel just like I do. We actually like the cold. We're not summertime people."

Summer or winter, the people are committed to moving the food to the delivery trucks to get it into customers hands as quickly as possible.

"Even in the winter time when you see everybody else on the side of the highway you see the Food City trucks going," he said.

The trucks keep going even when snow covers the ground. Mark is proud of their 99% on time delivery accomplishment.

"You get these big snow scares. We will have milk. We will have bread. We will have ice cream. And you would not believe how much ice cream we sell during a snow scare," he said.