It’s a good problem to have – more business than you have room for and a constant need for more space. But it’s not an easy problem to solve, as Atlanta’s Nickey Gregory Company knows all too well.
Nickey Gregory founded the full-line distributor, which serves 11 Southeastern states with overnight delivery, in an old gas station on the Atlanta State Farmers Market in 2000. With 17 years of consecutive growth, the company has expanded four times to its current 75,000 square foot headquarters – but still has struggled to keep up with growth in the limited confines of the farmers market. There hasn’t even been room to launch a dedicated organic program.
All of that just changed.
The Atlanta market was built in the 1950s but is still the largest in the nation from an acreage standpoint. But the location long ago ran out of room to put new buildings. With interstates and railroads all around, there’s no land to expand the perimeter.
“We started in 2000 in the gas station up here on the market – I call it the gas station because it was one for 30-something years,” Gregory says. “In 2001 we moved to the (former market) maintenance building, in 2002 we kept that and moved into the old market hamper house building too, then in 2009 we moved into this building and expanded it a couple of years later. It’s funny, I thought we had a long time to grow – I never thought it would be so short-lived and that in four or five years we’d outgrow it.”
“I came here three years ago and we already needed to expand then,” says Director of Marketing and Business Development Andrew Scott. “With 39,000 square feet of new warehouse space and 20 more loading bays, you’re going to see things really moving around here.”
The State of Georgia owns the farmers market and the buildings on it. Everything inside belongs to the tenants. Gregory and the state had been working on a location for an expansion on the market a couple of years – some brush had even been cleared off the market’s last remaining scrap of land – but the project was tangled in bureaucracy and red tape.
Then in January, Sysco’s FreshPoint Atlanta gave up an 80,000 square foot warehouse on the market to move into its new headquarters. Nickey Gregory jumped on the opening, splitting the space with another tenant.
The move will let the company leap big-time into organics — a first — and expand processing capabilities. The tomato repacking operation will also be relocated to the new facility.
“It’s not that we haven’t wanted to be heavy in organic, we just haven’t had the space,” Scott says. “It will be nice to have a little elbow room.”
The Nickey Gregory Company operates a second, 25,000 square foot warehouse in Miami. It has its own fleet of state-of-the-art trucks. A trucking subsidiary, Gregory Family Express, delivers up the Eastern seaboard and backhauls from as far away as Pennsylvania. And the company’s private label – “Cheryl’s Best” – is named for the company vice president, Gregory’s wife Cheryl.
“I’m proud of what we’ve built. I’m proud of my family. I’m proud of my employees. I’m proud of our reputation and the way we get the job done,” Gregory said. “We are steadily growing because everybody wants great service and that’s what we strive for in the produce business and the trucking business. I don’t like being late. I like delivering product the way it’s supposed to be. My team has done a great job building that and carrying on that momentum.”
And now they even have a little room to move.