Expecting to provide higher quality produce and save costs, Montreal-based Courchesne Larose Ltd. broke ground April 4 for its new home. Company officials say the first phase of 125,000 square feet should be complete by fall.

Consequently, Guy Milette might be a bit distracted this week during the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s show — his attention may drift about 15 kilometers north of the show floor to the construction site. As Courchesne’s vice president of international and business development and one of the show organizers, Milette said he is busier than usual this spring.

“We had the ground leveled at the new site last fall so we could actually start work as soon as the weather broke this spring,” Milette said April 5. “Now I am working on the show and planning how we will operate in our new building.

Workers are expected to pour concrete foundations while Milette is walking the CMPA show floor. He expects to see the steel super structure begin to take shape by the end of May. The site in eastern Montreal in the Anjou area is on the Boulevard of Sciences. Milette said the location has many advantages, including close proximity to the junction of two major highways.

“We were at a crossroads at Courchesne Larose,” Milette said. “When built 50 years ago, our building was rectangular. Now it looks more like a spider because of all the additions. It’s hard to be efficient while moving product here.”

Company officials had hoped the space problems would be resolved with a proposed central produce market, but last year the majority of small and medium-sized growers decided to stay in the west end at the Place des Producteurs.

At the time, Milette told The Packer it “was like a slap in the face.”

Courchesne Larose had more than $150,000 invested in plans and legal fees for the proposed market. Company officials decided they could not wait. They bought the proposed market site and started work on their new facility.

The company expects design innovations to result in increased efficiency. For bananas, Milette said the company projects moving 40% more product, from the current 25,000 boxes per week up to 35,000 boxes.

The new warehouse/distribution center will have shipping and receiving on the same side. Limiting open dock doors to one side will reduce temperature and humidity fluctuations, Milette said.

A custom dock will further decrease operating costs and reduce damage to produce. The floor is lowered at the threshold of each door, making it possible for trucks to back their trailers into a protected area before opening their doors.

“So it won’t matter if it’s 25 below in the winter or 85 degrees in summer, the cold chain will remain constant,” Milette said.

The layout and operation of the new facility is expected to be so different that senior executives decided the company’s personnel structure should be revised.

“We are changing the buyer/seller structures,” Milette said. “We will have about eight head buyers. By having a better chain of response you have a better chain of command and with the new building it will all fit together better.”

Courchesne Larose breaks ground on new facility

Courtesy Courchesne Larose

The company expects design innovations to result in increased efficiency.