The multimillion-dollar Ben E. Keith Co. facility, first announced in 2019, officially opened on Wednesday.
Located at 601 Ben E. Keith NW, the facility spans 274,000 square feet and includes regional offices and a distribution center, according to Todd Hickam, general manager of Ben E. Keith’s New Mexico division. But as the business grows in the future, so can the facility — which Hickam says can grow to 612,000 square feet. Although a first grand opening took place on Wednesday, the facility originally opened in March 2021, Hickam added.
“It’s the most technologically advanced distribution warehouse in the Southwest,” Hickam said. “We have a few automated aisles that actually employ more people than the older aisles, but it allows us to deliver more product to our customers.”
The facility reunited after years of planning for an expansion — Hickam said the company’s growth outpaced the old facility — before Ben E. Keith was approved for an industrial revenue bond of $80 million by Bernalillo County in October 2018. The company had purchased the land, a 50.2-acre parcel off Gallatin Place NW, in 2017 to build its facility there.
Hickam previously told the Journal that the property makes the most logistical sense for shipping purposes given its proximity to the freeway. Hickam said the move to a new, larger facility resulted in the company shipping 300% more product than at its old 63,000 square foot facility off Broadway Boulevard SE.
Ben E. Keith’s new facility includes freezer space that alone is larger than the company’s previous headquarters, Hickam said, as well as 40 total dock doors to speed up loading and unloading. trucks, a modern test kitchen and an open-plan office with more collaboration space. Hickam said one of the facility’s meeting rooms can accommodate 138 employees at a time and is equipped with Microsoft Teams to accommodate the more modern work environment.
“Our entire installation on Broadway could have fit in our current freezer and there was still 20,000 square feet left,” Hickam said. “There are about 12 rooms in the facility that have this technology so that people sitting in the room are on the same camera, if you will, for video conferencing that allows us to do these kinds of things.”
Ben E. Keith is primarily involved in food and beverage distribution throughout the state and bordering areas, such as El Paso and southern Colorado. The company first moved to New Mexico in 1991 when it purchased ABC Produce Distributors.
Ben E. Keith has added 100 more employees since the expansion, bringing the total number of employees to 204, Hickam said. The IRB agreement provided that up to 93 jobs would be added through the expansion.
Founded in 1906, Ben E. Keith, headquartered in Texas, operates in 17 states with eight divisions across the country. It recently opened another distribution facility — this one in Alabama — which also spans 400,000 square feet. The company also recently acquired Florida Food Service Inc. for an undisclosed price.