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After a long search, Atlanta-based General Produce Inc. has opened its new cross-dock facility in Thomasville, GA, enabling the company to extend its overnight reach throughout the Southeast.

The new facility replaces an outdated cross-dock in Cairo, GA, and "will allow the company to grow our business in Florida, Alabama and south Georgia," Andrew Scott, sales and procurement manager for General Produce, told The Produce News.

"If you put it all together, we can reach 11 states overnight and the Caribbean," added George Wiley, the firm's retail sales manager.

The search for a new south Georgia cross-dock facility was led by Mr. Wiley, who has overseen expansion of General Produce's delivery network throughout the Southeast over the last five years.

In addition to the new property, General Produce operates cross-dock facilities in Maiden, NC, Lake City, FL, and Savannah, GA.

"Five years ago, we first determined that in order to reach pretty much all points in the Southeast, we needed cross-dock distribution centers," Mr. Wiley said.

The addition of two large wholesale clients necessitated the four-points approach "to touch all their stores, to deliver next-day basically to any point in the Southeast including retail supermarkets," Mr. Wiley said. "To do that and keep legal - drivers can only spend 11 hours on the road - we needed relay stations."

After product arrives at General Produce's mammoth headquarters on the Atlanta State Farmers Market, wholesale and retail orders are processed immediately, shipping that evening and arriving at the distribution centers in "the early, early morning," Mr. Wiley said. From there, local drivers take over and deliver.

General Produce first utilized that approach five years ago with client Supervalu Inc., based in Quincy, FL, and Ira Higdon Grocery Co., a supplier based in Cairo, GA (both are IGA warehouses).

"It worked out well," Mr. Wiley said. "Over the last five years our business has just gone through the roof and we maxed out very quickly," thus creating the need for the Thomasville facility.

The refurbished facility was formerly the home of PFG-Powell, though it had been empty for five years.

"We will have much larger enclosed refrigerated receiving and shipping areas than Cairo that will completely protect the cold chain," Mr. Wiley said.

Initially, General Produce will not occupy the entire facility - the company is leasing the newest part of the building and is making sure there is ample room to grow.

General Produce will have 10 loading doors and 10,000 square feet of refrigerated warehouse and office space at the Thomasville facility

"We have the ability to grow into three times that amount if we grow the business," Mr. Wiley said. "Our landlord has already committed that we would have first option at additional space as we grow."