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Online grocer shopping for more space, employees

Michael Thompson September 16, 2014 0

Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks at Tuesday's Relay Foods announcement event. Photos by Michael Thompson.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks at Tuesday’s Relay Foods announcement event. Photos by Michael Thompson.

A Charlottesville-based online grocer is making a big investment in its Richmond operations.

Relay Foods will spend $710,000 to expand its distribution center in Scott’s Addition and add 75 local jobs. The company announced the expansion on Tuesday with Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones on hand to award the 6-year-old firm $100,000 in grants to help fund the growth.

Relay, which currently employs 30 workers in Richmond, plans to add between 35,000 and 50,000 square feet to the 9,000 square feet it now occupies at 1601 Roseneath Road.

At Tuesday’s press conference at the Roseneath facility, Gov. McAuliffe praised Relay Foods co-founders Arnie Katz and Zach Buckner. The state is giving the company a grant of $50,000 toward its plans, and the city of Richmond will match that amount.

“Agricultural entrepreneurs – That is the future,” McAuliffe said. “Arnie and Zach, you are both out front on that.”

Relay sells groceries online to customers across the Mid-Atlantic from Baltimore to Raleigh, N.C. Customers can have their purchases delivered or pick them up at designated spots around town.

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Relay Foods President Arnie Katz (left), Mayor Dwight Jones and Gov. Terry McAuliffe attended Tuesday’s event.

It has about 40 drop-off points in Richmond. The Richmond market is Relay Food’s second biggest after the Washington, D.C. area.

Relay’s Scott’s Addition facility also serves 10 surrounding localities outside the region, and the company has plans to expand into other surrounding markets.

“Our current plan over the next 12 months is to continue adding satellite markets in Virginia served from the Richmond facility,” Sarah Yates, a vice president at Relay Foods, said in an email Tuesday. “We have not yet finalized plans for new satellite markets, but Newport News and suburban markets towards D.C.…are likely candidates.”

The $50,000 state grant is part of the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund. Relay also got $50,000 from the fund in June, which it used to expand its corporate headquarters and fulfillment center in Charlottesville.

The grants came in conjunction with a goal set by Relay Foods to increase its Mid-Atlantic sales of Virginia-sourced products by $3 million over the next three years.

“The vast majority of money invested in Relay Foods comes from Virginia, and we look forward to the day we can pay that back,” Katz said at Tuesday’s event.

The company’s growth has also been fueled by venture capital money. It raised $8.25 million last year from investors.

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