Coca-Cola closing Pittsfield warehouse

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PITTSFIELD — Coca-Cola once operated a plant in Pittsfield that was owned by Bobby Jones, one of the world's greatest golfers. But a lot has changed since Jones purchased the former Berkshire Coca-Cola Bottling Company in July 1937, and the company's presence is currently limited to a small warehouse at 71 Downing Parkway.

Now, the company's long history in the city is coming to an end.

Following an evaluation of assets that were acquired in a major transaction last year, Coca-Cola of Northern New England will close its depot in the Downing Industrial Park June 1, according to a company spokesman.

The facility's 12 employees will be offered other opportunities within the company, including driver positions at the company's Greenfield and Albany, N.Y., sales centers. Most of the employees are drivers, and they have all been offered positions at those two sales centers.

"We hope to limit the impact on associates by assisting those who are interested in pursuing other opportunities within the company," said Coca-Cola of Northern New England spokesman Nick Martin. "Most importantly, we will treat everyone with the respect and dignity they deserve during this challenging time."

Originally from Atlanta, where the Coca-Cola Company is located, Jones purchased the Berkshire Coca-Cola Bottling Company seven years after he became the only golfer to win the sport's four major championships during the same calendar year, a feat known as the Grand Slam, when he was 28 in 1930. He was a frequent presence in Pittsfield, where his son, Robert T. Jones III, lived while working at the A.G. Spalding Co. in Chicopee. Jones went candlepin bowling for the first time while attending the plant's Christmas Party at the Wendell Hotel in Pittsfield in 1939 and played his final round of golf at Wahconah Country Club in Dalton on Aug. 5, 1948, according to Eagle files. Jones, who died in 1971, spent the last 20 years of his life in a wheelchair.

Robert T. Jones III, who was a city golf champion, took over the plant in 1951 following two debilitating labor strikes in 1949 and 1950 . He sold it in 1970 to the Coca -Cola Bottling Company of Northampton, which moved Pittsfield's entire operation out of the city. But the Northampton firm returned to Pittsfield six years later when it leased a warehouse on Commercial Street. The plant moved to East Street in 1985.

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SMALL FACILITY

Coca-Cola of Northern New England, headquartered in Bedford, N.H., took over Pittsfield's depot last fall when it acquired Coca-Cola Refreshments' Northeast Territory, a wholly-owned facility of The Coca-Cola Company. The deal increased the firm's workforce from 1,380 employees to almost 4,000. A franchise bottler, Coca-Cola of Northern New England's territory now includes the six New England states, upstate New York including the Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo metropolitan areas, and part of northern Pennsylvania.

The company leases Pittsfield's facility, which it operates as a warehouse. It is one of the smallest of the new facilities that the New Hampshire-based firm acquired in the deal.

Since the sale took place, Coca-Cola of Northern New England's leadership has been evaluating its expanded network of facilities in order to "optimize routes and improve customer service," Martin said.

"The difficult decision to close the Pittsfield depot comes only after thoughtful deliberation," Martin said.

Besides Pittsfield and Greenfield, the company also operates facilities in Massachusetts in Edgartown, Lowell, Nantucket, Sandwich, Waltham and Westborough along with a production center in Needham.

Contact Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.


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