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New Laredo facility to boost Mr. Lucky's service

By
Tad Thompson

Mr. Lucky is greatly expanding its border warehouse services in Laredo, TX.  By this fall, a new cold warehouse and office complex will replace GAB’s current, out-grown facility.

Miguel Usabiaga, vice president of the company, said the move is being made "to meet and exceed customer needs.”

Mr. Lucky is the well-known brand name used by GAB, owner of fresh vegetable operations in Guanajuato, Mexico.  Covemex is GAB’s frozen vegetable brand.

Usabiaga emphasized that Mr. Lucky will continue to operate from a third-party warehouse in Pharr, TX.  Those crossings are mostly mixed or LTL fresh shipments from Guanajuato.

Laredo receives virtually all the firm’s full trailers of fresh and frozen products.  He explained why full trailers are best-served in Laredo: While Pharr and other McAllen-area crossings collectively make south Texas one of the largest U.S. fresh produce land ports, Laredo receives a greater total volume, considering volumes of meat and full trailers of other Mexican imports.

An artist’s rendering of the GAB cold storage facility that is to open this fall in Laredo, TX.
An artist’s rendering of the GAB cold storage facility that is to open this fall in Laredo, TX.

U.S. federal inspectors in Laredo inspect and confirm such bonded contents, but efficiently send the trailers on to customers in Canada and the United States.

The nature of this full trailer trade makes available many U.S. drivers waiting to pick up trailers filled with Mexican products and quickly be on their way.

All GAB trailers destined for Canada will pass through Laredo.

From Pharr, Mr. Lucky and countless other produce firms are engaged — often with one another — in mixing and filling trailers with a variety of fresh produce items.

“We are not looking to get out of McAllen at all,” Usabiaga said. “But Laredo gives us additional options to serve our customers.  Portions of our service can be more efficient with a new facility in Laredo.”

A M King is the design-builder of Mr. Lucky’s new 45,590-square-foot cold storage, which is to be complete by October.

Usabiaga said his family business is looking forward 25 years with the Laredo expansion. The GAB property within Laredo’s Pinnacle Industry Center has the space to build out to a cold warehouse as large as 125,000 square feet.

This property is just minutes from the Rio Grande River and the Laredo International Airport. In its new location, Mr. Lucky will neighbor Mission Produce’s new 262,000-square foot greenfield ripening, processing and distribution center.  A M King is to complete that project this summer.

Usabiaga said his family has been in the frozen vegetable business for almost 45 years.  At least 95 percent of that volume is shipped to Laredo. The frozen business will continue to flow through Laredo and capitalize on the aforementioned opportunities for full truckload shipments.

Obviously, the new facility will have expanded frozen cold storage, as well as 34-degree vegetable rooms, forced air cooling, garlic storage, and ripening rooms to serve Mr. Lucky’s expanding organic tomato business. Reconditioning facilities will also be in the new building, which will be cold-chain efficient, starting with sealed loading doors.

In Laredo, GAB will have a trucker dormitory for fleet drivers to rest before continuing their route.

GAB specializes in the production, development, marketing and distribution of fresh and frozen vegetables and fruits. Items include broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and other leafy greens, varieties of lettuce, celery, sweet corn, sno peas, pumpkin, sweet mini peppers, berries, and more. In addition, Mr. Lucky is one of the largest garlic and organic tomato producers in Mexico, prepares fresh-cut produce for foodservice clients and provides pre-packed salads and private-label products for many U.S.-based produce outfits. Fifteen years ago, the company initiated internal food-safety standards and set its own documentation and traceability program. GAB uses the latest technology in advanced irrigation systems, integrated fertigation and pest management systems to guarantee delivery of high-quality produce worldwide.

Usabiaga said GAB’s goal is to grow by 10 percent a year.  In the pandemic year, the firm fell slightly short, with 8 percent growth.  But the goal is otherwise regularly attained.  He said the firm also increases its size by serving customer demand, versus planning new production to push into the marketplace.

The builder indicated the new project includes 7,717 square feet of refrigerated spaces ranging from 34 to 45 degrees; a 13,030-square foot, -10-degree freezer; 2,502 square feet of 75-degree dry storage; 10 dock positions; and 4,570 square feet of office space. In addition, there are 82,000 square feet of concrete truck apron adjacent to the building.

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