By Matt Youngfrau
WURTSBORO April 26, 2002 Five hundred thousand square feet under one roof.
Two hundred employees, with up to 900 in the future.
Twenty-thousand cartons of products received every day at 200 truck bays.
Fifteen miles of conveyor belts, enough to cover the distance between Wurtsboro and Monticello.
All this, and yet an intimately local focus.
"We try to be a part of the community," commented Charlie Mangini, Director of Distribution at Kohls Mamakating Distribution Center near Wurtsboro."We employ local people. We purchase locally. We are here to help and support the local community."
The Kohl's chain of department stores features more than 400 retail outlets and seven distribution centers throughout the country. The last few years, they have been expanding throughout the East Coast, and the company began looking for an area to place a distribution center about two and a half years ago. They ultimately narrowed their search to Orange and Sullivan counties.
"We liked the area," remarked John Fojut, Vice President of Distribution Operations from the corporate offices in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin and one of the people who set up the distribution center in Mamakating. "We like to hire good, quality people. We were looking at Orange County first, but Sullivan County Partnership [for Economic Development] President Mike Sullivan came up with this site. I give him a lot of credit. We liked the area and the people here."
"I thank them for their kind words," Sullivan replied. "It is truly Sullivan County that was the beneficiary. The Partnership looks forward to creating many more additional jobs that will benefit the people of Sullivan County."
Kohl's worked closely with the Town of Mamakating and local environmental groups to come up with site plans.
"We spent a lot of time getting the site going," Fojut stated. "We wanted to be environmentally friendly. After all, we are going to be here 30, 40, 50 years. We do not want to damage the environment. Our people live here."
The Distribution Center took 14 months to construct. While the center is quite large, it just opened in February, so things are beginning slowly.
"You don't go from 0-60 right out of the chute," Fojut said. "We will keep adding more stores."
When it opened nearly three months ago, the center serviced 28 stores throughout the Boston area and New York State. It has since picked up another 20 stores. By the end of the year, officials figure they will be servicing 61 stores. The center has the capacity, though, to serve 107 stores.
Once they expand, they will be hiring additional employees, said Mangini. Currently, they have about 200 employees on the main floor and another 30 in administrative roles. Kohl's plans to take on another 140 employees for this summer.
Besides expanding the number of stores they serve, Kohl's will add an additional shift of 2:30-10 p.m. to supplement the current one of 6 a.m.-2 p.m.
"At first, some employees didn't like the early shift," remarked Mangini. "Now they love it. They have the rest of the day to enjoy, and the parents can be home for their kids."
Both Mangini and Fojut pointed out that there are two types of distribution centers: flow-through and warehouse. The Mamakating Center is a flow-through facility. This means that they do not store merchandise. They receive their merchandise from vendors, the crew checks it for quality and they ship it to the stores as quickly as possible.
"We receive 18,000-20,000 cartons a day. That is just for 28 stores," Fojut commented. "Charlie tries to see how fast we can get it off one truck and onto another to go to the stores."
Kohl's believes firmly in being a part of the local community. To that end, Mangini, representing Kohl's, has joined the Wurtsboro Board of Trade and the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce.
"We wanted to get a feel for the needs of the community and their concerns," Mangini said. "I have tried to sit in on many meetings and hear the concerns. We gave them a tour to show them what we are doing. We want to be good neighbors. We do not want to be a hindrance. We will not have a negative effect."
While Mangini has made it a priority to be a part of the community, he realizes that he does have a business to run.
"It is a challenge," Mangini confessed. "It is hard to juggle everything. I want be involved, and I also have to look out for the needs of the business."
The Kohl's Distribution Center in Mamakating, however, has already managed to set a record for productivity. Kohls officials said the center had the best opening of any distribution center in the entire Kohl's chain. It has put them ahead of where centers normally are just two and a half months into production.
"I give Charlie and the whole staff credit," Fojut stated. "They did a really good job."
"I am very pleased," Mangini added. "It was a tremendous task. It can be frustrating, [but] they carried the ball."
Only six of the distribution center's employees were relocated from other Kohl's stores. The rest came from the local area.
"They are a happy group," Mangini said. "It shows in their quality and performance."
Performance has increased since the new retail store opened in Wallkill recently.
"Many of our employees have gone to that store," Mangini stated. "It gives them a sense of pride to see the results of their work. They processed and shipped all that merchandise."
Mangini best summed up how he and his employees at the center feel.
"It is a blast to work here. We have a great team effort. We are all in this together. I have an open-door policy, and I have tried to learn everybody's name. I try to touch base with them and get feedback."
Mangini and Fojut do not expect to lose any productivity when they increase production. In fact, they look forward to it.
"We may add some extra space," Fojut said. "This is a good community here. They are good people. This center will be very successful."
Kohl's will be officially welcomed to the area next month. The chamber has arranged for a ribbon cutting ceremony to take place on Friday, May 24.