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April 16, 2008

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Jefferson, Georgia 30549


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Whole Foods opens Braselton center
Facility serves 32 stores
Whole Foods Market — a natural and organic foods grocer — has officially opened its regional distribution center in Braselton.
And the 111,000 square-foot facility on Ga. Hwy. 124 has plenty of “green” features — which ties to one of the company’s core principles of sound environmental practices.
“Everything here has a purpose,” said Mike Hardy, facility team leader of Whole Food’s south distribution center in Braselton.
Whole Foods not only promotes the practices of recycling, reuse and reducing waste at its 270 stores in North America and the United Kingdom, it also designed the Braselton building with the environment in mind.
One of the key features of the Braselton facility is a 10,000 gallon cistern, which is considered the largest of its kind east of the Mississippi River. The cistern collects rainwater for Whole Foods to reuse throughout its property.
“The irrigation system we have provides water for our landscaping,” Hardy said of the cistern. Whole Foods will not use town water for landscaping, he added.
Other features include a roof designed to reflect heat to keep the building cooler, plenty of natural lighting for employees, a solar-powered water heater, and motion-detecting lights and faucets.
The Braselton center will also be Whole Foods’ compost facility, where its stores will send biodegradable material that can be converted into compost for the company’s farmers, Hardy said. Whole Food expects to process 2 million pounds of compost a year at the local site.
Whole Foods will use its Braselton facility as a distribution center for 18 stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, and 14 stores in Florida. The Jackson County building replaces a 35,000 center the company used in Gwinnett County.
The regional distribution center houses all of the produce and much of the frozen foods, and grocery and bulk items that Whole Foods sell in its stores. Some meat and cheese items are also processed at the facility. Five other facilities in the region complete the company’s distribution supply.
The company estimates it will have $3 million annual impact on the local economy.
Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods has 108 employees at the Braselton distribution center, which ships 265,000 boxes a month. The company can also expand the building later, Hardy said.
The Braselton distribution center features seven “pods” to store products — ranging from 75 degrees to -10 degrees. The pods also have varying amounts of humidity, depending on the food item.
The banana ripening room is the first for Whole Foods. There, bananas are held for five days to ripen during a special process before heading to store shelves, Hardy explained during a grand opening tour last week.
The Whole Foods Market south region distribution center is also open to school and civic groups for tours, Hardy said. For more information on tours, contact Mike Hardy at 706-824-7103 or e-mail


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