Online pet food and suppliers retailer Chewy opened its new 795,000-square-foot fulfillment center on North Virginia Street earlier this year.
Chewy’s new ecommerce fulfillment center in north Reno allows the company to better serve customers throughout the West and especially pet owners living in the Pacific Northwest.
The 795,000-square-foot facility is the 13th fulfillment center for the online pet food and pet products retailer and its second facility in Northern Nevada. Chewy also operates a 566,866-square-foot distribution center at Milan Drive in Tahoe Reno Industrial Center — the oldest of the company’s fulfillment centers, said Mike Stevens, vice president of HR fulfillment and supply chain.
The new building gives Chewy the additional warehouse space it needed to grow and better serve its customer base in the Pacific Northwest, as well as bring higher levels of automation to its Northern Nevada operations, Stevens told NNBW in an interview last week. The company opened the new fulfillment center to regional media for site tours last Thursday.
“Our new-gen buildings are designed to be much more team-member friendly with more automation,” Stevens said. “We have a push-to-pick methodology where we bring products to the individual to reduce the physical effort necessary to fulfill orders.
“We deliver a lot of heavy, bulky goods, and as we invest in automation and our gen-2 buildings, the question is, ‘How do we get better at moving heavier, bulkier equipment?’ We have a lot of room to grow with automation and moving heavier products to reduce the physical effort of our workers. This is gen-2, and I am looking forward to gen 3, 4 and 5 as we go.”
The new Reno fulfillment center supports orders coming in from throughout the Pacific Northwest and also alleviates some of the workload on the company’s fulfillment center in Goodyear, Ariz., Stevens said. Having more space in Northern Nevada also allows the company to fulfill its promise of one- to two-day delivery, Stevens added.
Clayco of St. Louis was the design-builder of the warehouse at 8001 N. Virginia St., while industrial architectural firm studioNorth Architecture of Kansas City was the lead architect. Clayco also installed all the design-build electrical, mechanical, plumbing and fire alarm systems in the new Chewy building.
Nationwide, Chewy operates more than 9 million square feet of fulfillment space and employs more than 21,300 people, the company stated in its 2021 annual SEC report. Chewy operates from dual headquarters facilities in Boston and Plantation, Fla. Stevens said the company will leverage existing relationships with third-party logistics providers to move goods in an out of the north Reno facility.
The fulfillment center on North Virginia Street is the second-largest in the company’s portfolio, trailing only the 808,160-square-foot fulfillment center in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
The building at Milan Drive also is the smallest of its original buildings, and that building’s size was a primary driver for expansion of the company’s Reno operations, Stevens said.
“We needed to have more volume and scalability,” he said. “This is the distribution point for all orders coming in from the western region, primarily the Pacific Northwest.”
Building in Reno also allowed the company to tap into its existing labor pool and provide many of those workers with new career paths.
“When you think about where to put your next building from a scalability perspective, locating in the Reno area and being able to provide additional growth and advancement opportunities for those employees was equally important to us,” Stevens said. “Building in Reno meets our need for scalability in the Pacific Northwest, and it also provides opportunities for more of our team members.
“We have the opportunity to place buildings all over the map,” Stevens noted, “but that doesn’t provide opportunities for our existing employees. This was an opportunity where we could expand in an existing market and provide growth opportunities for the people who have been with us for quite a while.”
Current headcount at the Milan Drive facility is around 350 to 400, Stevens noted, and the company’s total Northern Nevada headcount stands at roughly 1,000 employees. Chewy expects to employ as many as 1,000 team members at the new facility and is still actively recruiting and hiring, Stevens added.
“We are still new in the hiring process,” he said. “We were able to lean on many of our legacy team members to launch the building, and we just now are getting into ramp up and hiring additional team members.
“We still are hiring for many roles, especially in fulfillment. It’s a mix between fulfillment specialists, forklift operators, IT, and human resources,” he added.
Many key employees from the company’s existing operations were able to move into entry-level management and executive positions, Stevens added.
“We are still a small company, so when we have a new launch of a building, we are able to move some people over to the leadership team as well as provide promotional opportunities for team members into entry-level management roles.
“We have had a great experience with our team members at McCarran,” Stevens said. “The team members who actually built the framework of this organization, whether it was our eastern fulfillment center or in the West, are important and special to us. They have been fantastic.”