. Through a hurricane, power outages and destruction from a tornado, the gang here has held tough.
By LISA FARMER
The Food Lion Distribution Center, which opened 30 years ago on Arrowhead Road just south of Dunn, celebrated that milestone Wednesday with an ataboy for employees and tours for guests. Food Lion’s big wig, President Meg Ham, was on hand, visiting the distribution center for the first time.
“It’s a beautiful facility,” she said.
The celebration had been planned for January, but a snowstorm Managing Editor delayed it. Workers and guests gathered in the large conference center mid-morning for the celebration. They saw a video presentation recorded and edited by Food Lion employee Dave Burley. During the video, Food Lion staffers of 30 or more years talked about their experiences at the distribution center (they call it DC4) and the work atmosphere there.
Margaret Carroll said her husband saw it being built and she saw an ad in the paper, so she applied.
Mrs. Carroll, who resides in Clement, is now the operations manager.
“It was interesting to me to see how much work it takes to get one can of beans in the grocery store,” she said.
There was a lot of excitement in the community 30 years ago about the distribution center and the stable, good-paying jobs it was going to bring. And, according to almost 30-year employee Barbara Lee of Benson, the good benefits she enjoys. The facility came to Dunn at a time when the economy was in need of a boost.
Employee James Taylor said, “It was just a joyful time.”
Full Speed Quickly
He said he remembers they were going to open slowly and started one week with 20 stores, the next week the center was serving 40 stores and by the end of the month was at full capacity. Today, the facility delivers groceries to 275 stores. Since 1988, Food Lion has blossomed into the third-largest employer in Harnett County, supplying more than 1,000 jobs. The distribution center employs close to 800. It is only exceeded in that standing by Harnett County Schools and Campbell University.
Employees on the video remembered April 16, 2011, when a tornado caused extensive damage to the facility.
“I got a call the warehouse had been hit by a tornado,” Mrs. Carroll said.
She said she drove to the facility and saw frozen products all over the place.
“There were trees and power See Food Lion, Page 3A
Guests at the 30th anniversary celebration of the Food Lion Distribution Center were treated to tours of the facility. Here are the chambers in which bananas are ripened. The bananas come in gourd green and ethylene is injected into these chambers to ripen the fruit. Operations Manager Margaret Carroll said if you break open a green banana when it first arrives, it smells just like a cucumber.
Daily Record Photo/Lisa Farmer
These are some of the 30-plus-year employees recognized during the 30th anniversary celebration of the Food Lion Distribution Center. Employees said their co-workers are like family.
Daily Record Photo/Lisa Farmer
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lines down,” Anthony Rogers said. “The ones that didn’t go out of town (to work at another facility) came out and cleaned up.”
Mrs. Carroll said both ends of the grocery area were blown out, but a large United States flag was hanging, untouched. It’s in the same location today. In that same section, employees took cover under the bridge where the old rail pit was located until the tornado passed. No one was hurt.
(Note: Train cars used to pull into the facility where they were unloaded. Now, all the freight comes in by tractor-trailer.) Food Lion, which portions of it had to close for a time, rebuilt and expanded.
Out of something bad came something good, Mr. Rogers said.
Billy Godwin said they had perishables back up in 10 days. He said everyone worked hard and worked together.
“That’s a testament to this DC. This DC came back from a tight spot. We have a dedicated group of associates.”
From hurricanes and power outages, “This group always comes through in a clutch.”
The Trouble With Matthew
During Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Food Lion lost power for several days. Officials had to seek help from Duke Energy to turn on the generators. The employees didn’t know how to turn on the huge generators. Food Lion saved all its products, although employees were working with flashlights.
Distribution center staff know what to do now if power goes off. “That will never happen again,” said Mike Dickey, general manager of the distribution center.
Two of the men who were instrumental in recruiting the distribution center could not be at Wednesday’s event, Harnett County Commissioner Abe Elmore and Dunn Mayor Oscar Harris.
Harnett County Commissioners Chairman Gordon Springle noted Mr. Elmore’s contribution. Mr. Elmore helped obtain the funds from the state to pay for the infrastructure Food Lion needed.
Mr. Springle said the facility opened up development of the corridor. He also noted Food Lion’s contributions to the community.
“We wish you another 100 years,” he said.
Dunn City Manager Steve Neuschafer said Mayor Harris, who was president of the chamber of commerce in 1988, regretted he could not attend.
“He was honored to be involved in the negotiations,” he said.
Paul James, one of the corporate representatives at Food Lion, also spoke.
“Folks, what an awesome day,” he said.
He recalled driving to Dunn from Wallace where he was working as a bag boy to, more or less, crash the groundbreaking ceremony for the Dunn facility. (The ceremony itself was held inside nearby Sansom Community Church because it was raining so hard. The groundbreaking was outside.) He was 17. He said he got to meet Tom Smith, the former Food Lion president recognized by many.
“I am so glad I was part of that experience,” he said.
Ms. Ham, now Food Lion’s president, said the purpose of the grocery story chain is, “We do more than sell groceries, we nourish families.
“We appreciate what you do for us every single day,” she said to the employees.
Ms. Ham has been with Ahold Delhaize for 30 years. Food Lion, which still has headquarters in Salisbury, is a subsidiary of the Dutch grocery giant.
Ms. Ham said Food Lion, which was founded 61 years ago, has 65,000 associates and 11 million customers.
Also on Wednesday, employees were treated to pizza and 30-plusyear employees were recognized with a framed certificate and book.
Food Lion was a subsidiary of Delhaize since 1974 and now
Alhold Delhaize following a merger in 2015. (You've seen the changes in the stores since the merger.) Remember Food Lion was once Food Town? It changed to Food Lion in 1982 when expanding into the Virginia markets that already had a chain of unrelated Foodtowns. Delhaize changed the chain name to Food Lion and used Delhaize's own lion logo.
Daily Record Photo/Tom Woerner
This flag was still hanging after a tornado tore through the Food Lion Distribution Center April 16, 2011, although both ends of this section blew out. Employees took cover under a bridge where train cars used to be unloaded. No one was hurt.
Daily Record Photo/Lisa Farmer
“In 1986, it was a BIG DEAL for Food Lion to announce its distribution center was coming to Dunn. In 1988, it was a BIG DEAL for the groundbreaking and what a beautiful site. In 2018, 30 years later… it’s still a BIG DEAL! Largest employer, behind Harnett County and Campbell Univeristy, they made a large commitment and a huge investment in our community and have expanded over the years. We, as a city, say, thank you for this investment in our community and the creation of jobs.
You have become our family! Congratulations on 30 years! We wish them much continued success and growth for the years to come.”
— Dunn Mayor Oscar Harris