New owners for large Kent food distribution warehouse

Harbor Wholesale Foods purchases Food Services of America facility

Harbor Wholesale Foods has purchased a Kent warehouse. COURTESY PHOTO, Harbor

Harbor Wholesale Foods has purchased a Kent warehouse. COURTESY PHOTO, Harbor

A large Kent food distribution warehouse recently went through a complex change of ownership, but in the end the 200 employees are expected to keep their jobs.

Lacey-based Harbor Wholesale Foods announced Sept. 11 the purchase of a 250,000-square-foot warehouse from Arizona-based Food Services of America. The facility, 18430 E. Valley Highway, serves roughly 1,700 independent restaurant operators throughout 10 counties in Western Washington, according to a Harbor press release.

Illinois-based US Foods acquired the warehouse last year when it bought SGA’s Food Group of Companies for $1.8 billion. SGA operates as five separate entities, including Food Services of America (FSA).

US Foods acquisition of SGA, however, required antitrust approval from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), according to Sara Matheu, spokeswoman for US Foods.

“The sale of the Kent facility came about because US Foods received conditional approval from the FTC on Sept. 11 to proceed with closing the acquisition but as a condition to receiving the FTC’s approval, US Foods is required to divest (or in other words, sell) three Food Services of America distribution centers including the one located Kent,” Matheu said in an email.

Because of the expected employment transitions, US Foods is legally required to issue Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notices with the state Employment Security Department. That led to a bit of confusion as the state sent out notice Sept. 16 that 200 employees would lose their jobs at the Kent warehouse because of closure of the facility.

“I wanted to make sure it was very clear that 200 employees will not be laid off due to a permanent closure as the WARN notice implies,” Matheu said. “US Foods expects that all Kent associates will be provided employment opportunities with Harbor Wholesale Foods or remain an employee of FSA with US Foods as the new owner.”

Taber Lee, Harbor director of marketing, said the workers will keep their jobs.

“Harbor Wholesale Foods is hiring 200-plus FSA associates/employees,” Lee said in an email.

Harbor is a fourth generation family owned and operated business distributing products to Pacific Northwest customers since 1923. Harbor currently services more than 3,000 locations throughout Washington, Oregon and parts of California, Idaho and Alaska from distribution centers in Lacey and Roseburg, Oregon.

Acquiring the Kent distribution center from Food Services of America achieves Harbor’s goal of becoming a premier Northwest food service distributor.

“As our company evolved, we shifted our focus to retail grocery and convenience store distribution,” Harbor CEO Justin Erickson said. “As food service has become the primary focus of convenience stores over the past 10-plus years we’ve expanded our capabilities in food service to retain and grow our position as the Northwest’s leading convenience store distributor.”

Meanwhile, Food Services of America serves 16 states in the West and Midwest from nine distribution centers, and 40 percent of its net sales base comes from serving independent restaurants.

US Foods partners with approximately 250,000 restaurants and food service operators and has nearly 25,000 employees and more than 60 locations.

Despite the ownership changes, little is expected to change at the Kent warehouse.

“The site location in Kent will remain the same and continue to be led by the current FSA executive leadership team, utilizing the same familiar systems, tools, and technology that their current customers and associates rely on today,” Lee, of Harbor, said. “We are keeping the facility open and operating business as usual.”

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