Longtime Tacoma grocery distribution site to close as work moves to Centralia

The purchase by one food wholesaler of another has led to the end of the road for distribution centers in Tacoma, Auburn and Portland.

United Natural Foods Inc. purchased Supervalu last year for $2.9 billion. As a result of the new combined operations, UNFI is closing distribution centers in Tacoma, Auburn and Portland.

UNFI is building a new 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center in Centralia and expanding its Ridgefield operations in Clark County by more than 500,000 square feet.

The closures will occur after the Centralia and Ridgefield projects are finished, which is estimated to be sometime in the fall.

According to a UNFI memo from Feb. 5, the company had been reviewing operations in the Northwest “to drive efficiencies and improve our operations capabilities so that we can better serve retailers in the region.”

It noted the new Centralia location was “conveniently located between Tacoma and Portland with easy access to Interstate 5.”

In response to questions about the Tacoma and Auburn sites, the company, in a statement sent to The News Tribune, said: “Our associates at our Tacoma and Auburn facilities are vital to the success of our distribution network.

“Centralia is a major new facility, and we’ll need a large population of associates to help operate it. During our meetings with our Tacoma and Auburn (distribution center) associates last week, we encouraged all of them to consider joining us at the new facility and it is our hope they will do so. “

The Centralia Chronicle reported Feb. 7 that plans for the new $100 million distribution center had started with Supervalu.

The Tacoma operation was formerly Tacoma-based West Coast Grocery distributors, founded in 1891 and purchased by Supervalu in 1985. That purchase at the time was to expand Supervalu’s operations into the Northwest.

The Portland site had been a Unified Grocers warehouse until Unified was bought by Supervalu in 2017. The Unified-Supervalu deal had also led to work at a Seattle warehouse to be transferred to Tacoma at the time.

The Auburn site was already under the UNFI umbrella.

The move out of Tacoma affects close to 500 workers.

UNFI is based in Providence, Rhode Island.