World Kitchen shows off renovations in Greencastle

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
An employee in the set assembly department labels Corelle pie plates and puts them in boxes, ready to be shipped to customers.

The buckets are gone. No one at World Kitchen has to worry about rain any more.

A two-year renovation at the East Region Distribution Center, 1200 S. Antrim Way, is nearly completed, and officials celebrated July 15 with a rededication ceremony. Longtime employees, corporate personnel, local dignitaries and businesses involved in the project gathered for a ribbon cutting, tour and lunch on Tuesday.

The improvements included 20,000 square feet of administrative office space, new roofing and exterior, and refurbished offices, cafeteria and restroom. The landlord, Matrix Development Group, invested $10 million into modernizing the facility. Matrix vice president of the industrial portofolio, James Murray, thanked Franklin County Area Development Corporation, Antrim Township, Greencastle-Antrim School District, and G-A Chamber of Commerce for their assistance in launching the project.

“This wouldn’t have happened like we wanted it to without them,” he said.

Matrix purchased the site in 2005 and obtained a 10-year lease from World Kitchen, to run into 2023.

Carl  Warschausky, World Kitchen president, commented on the process. “It’s been bumping around for four years. We needed a more efficient distribution network.”

They chose Greencastle for the quality of its employees and operations, he said.

FCADC president Mike Ross called the WK renovation “arguably the most important project in the county in the last 20 years.” Antrim and G-ASD had approved LERTA, a tax abatement program, with WK its first beneficiary. And Franklin County had lower taxes than other counties in the state, he said. He also thanked the company for its commitment to Greencastle and Franklin County since it opened in 1960 as Corning.

The center employs 362 hourly workers in two shifts, 28 people in leadership roles, and 100 staff members in support departments. It handles Corelle, Chicago Cutlery, Pyrex, Corning Ware, Snapware, Baker’s Secret, Ekco, Revere, Magnalite, Visions and Olfa products. Customers include Costco, Kohl’s, Target, Walmart, grocers and WK retail stores.

It’s all better

At least 13 employees were honored for their long tenure at WK, and took part in the ribbon cutting ceremony. Terry Cassner had 45 years of service. Linda Walls and Judy Ormston each had 40 years with the company. They were in shipping and loved their jobs because of the tasks and the people. But it was still a regular day for them.

“We have to go back to work now,” said Ormston, smiling, when the crowd broke for facility tours.

Controller Chad Aumick explained the new features for one group. The old roof looked like “Swiss cheese” when it was pulled off, and now no one had to worry about leaks. The warehouse had heat and air conditioning for a more moderate climate.

While the footprint of the building remained the same, the space had been redirected. The old blue frontage of offices was gone, which he admitted upset some employees. The offices were recreated in a two-story section at the south end of the one-milion square foot building.

A new guard shack in one driveway was home to security that could now check every truck entering and exiting. The distribution center expanded the number of shipping and receiving docks from 33 to 79. The grounds were readied to increase the number of trailer storage lots from 40 to 120, so WK no longer needed to rent space elsewhere. The motion sensor lights were energy efficient, Aumick noted, and WK was receiving rebates from the electrical provider.

Deb Daugherty called the tour intriguing. She had ties to World Kitchen, having worked in data processing for three years. Her father, Garnet Rife, was hired in 1960 and worked there for 29 years. He started in shipping and retired as parts manager. She also had aunts and uncles employed at the business.

Said Aumick, “A lot of generational families work here. That’s great to see.”

World Kitchen is headquartered in Rosemont, Illinois. The company and its affiliates employ 3,000 people in North America and Asia/Pacific regions.