ARLINGTON — Between May 13-16, the San Juan Salsa Co. expects to break ground on the expanded facility its partners have been planning for more than a year.
The new building is sited just three blocks south of their existing location, in the same industrial park east of the Arlington Airport, and more than triples the company’s square footage.
Although it started in a Friday Harbor kitchen on San Juan Island in the late 1980s, consumer demand for the homemade salsa from the mainland inspired the company to move to Arlington in the early 1990s.
Sandy Albright has been with the company since those early days, and has seen its production needs outgrow its current space. Nonetheless, she explained to the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce May 10 that she and her partners felt strongly about staying in Arlington for the same reasons they were drawn to the town in the first place.
“It’s a great community with convenient access to the freeway,” Albright said. “We enjoy our Arlington neighbors. At the same time, our goal was always to own our own facility.”
The company’s current location at 195th Street includes 1,000 square feet for production, 1,500 square feet for storage and 500 square feet for offices. By contrast, the new facility at 192nd Street is set to include 4,000 square feet each for production and storage, plus another 2,000 square feet for offices.
“As a food manufacturer, we have specific needs for our facility,” Albright said. “Because we’re not a restaurant, we’re inspected by the state Department of Agriculture, rather than the county. We have concrete floors with built-in drains, and three walk-in freezers. We’ll actually have enough space to cook and pack our salsa at the same time, whereas now, we have to do each one at a time, because our cooking and packing is done in the same space. This new building will be perfect, because it’s meant for our business.”
Albright’s partners include her husband and another couple, and the rest of the company numbers two full-time and three part-time employees. However, two of those part-time employees are Albright’s daughters, who will be heading off to college in the fall. With their move to the new facility, Albright expects to hire at least four more full-time workers, and promote her remaining part-timer to full-time status.
Albright reported that the company’s sales have grown every year, last year by 20 percent, and has distributed its salsa and chips to QFC stores in Washington and Oregon for close to 20 years. Ironically, the loss of several Haggen locations, due to that chain’s reorganization, allowed the San Juan Salsa Co. to pick up more than 50 Safeway stores.
“You have to give up a lot to run a business, in terms of your time and your heart,” Albright said. “But what you get back from it makes it so worth it.”
Albright predicted the new location of the San Juan Salsa Co. would open its doors in about six to eight months. In the meantime, she invited customers to stop by their existing facility, in Unit 5 at 5919 195th St. NE.
“We never turn anyone away,” Albright said.