Next time you’re chowing down on a submarine sandwich, know that foot-long loaf of bread might just have Centralia beginnings.
Millard Refrigerated Services in the Port of Centralia began producing, freezing and shipping bread to Subway locations in the Seattle area late last year.
Plant Manager Matt Dibble said the company is now shipping to Spokane as well, and expects to become the primary provider for all franchises in the Northwest, Western Canada and Alaska when it reaches full production.
The company produces Italian White and 9-Grain Wheat bread for Subway under a partnership.
The contract — along with others to store frozen produce for such companies as National Frozen Foods — allows Millard to employ a total of 41 full-time employees who work everywhere from the production line, to a quality control facility to the cold-storage warehouse.
Dibble said the company will be expanding its production for the next three months to meet demand.
Prior to the construction of the 150,000-square-foot plant, Dibble said the national sandwich chain was getting its bread from places like Minnesota and Arizona.
“It should help the quality,” Dibble said of the facility’s close proximity to the service area and shorter shipping times.
Millard invested $25 million in the construction of the plant after negotiations with the Port of Centralia and the City of Centralia’s now defunct Economic Development Department.
At the facility, workers mix and receive raw ingredients to produce sheets of dough sticks that fit precise parameters required by Subway. Dibble declined to provide precise production statistics, but said the company hopes to employ three full shifts to operate five days a week producing bread.
Millard is currently training a second shift with the first already working.
After the bread is produced, it’s frozen and stored at -10 degrees in a large warehouse before being shipped off to various locations across the region.
Each batch, though, is tested by a quality control specialist in a testing facility near the production line.
“I never get tired of it,” said Annette Mankin, a quality control specialist who taste-tests samples from each batch of bread. “It’s like it makes you hungry.”
“Essentially, every seven minutes we’re collecting a sample and testing its attributes,” Dibble said.
From the mixing of the ingredients, to production and finally storage take about an hour for each batch of bread, Dibble said.
With the planned expansion of distribution, Dibble said the company could have as many as 80 employees by April.
“It’s like we’ve been running practice laps and now we’re finally ready to race,” Dibble said.
Eric Schwartz: (360) 807-8245