(Dec. 2) POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — Southern Specialties has consolidated its packaging operations.

The grower-shipper and importer of specialty produce completed the expansion of its Pompano Beach warehouse in early November. The company ships all of its fresh produce to U.S. and international customers from the facility.

The $1.5 million expansion project, which started in summer 2003, added 30,000 square feet to the warehouse, which brought the facility up to 75,000 square feet, said Robert Colescott, the company’s president.

Colescott said the company would annually ship 6 million to 8 million packages of produce through the warehouse.

The warehouse features four temperature zones, 30-pallet pre-cooling capacity, additional storage and four new loading docks, giving the company eight docks.

Produce can be stored in temperatures ranging from 34-50 degrees, said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development.

Southern Specialties previously had eight-pallet capacity for its pre-cooling operation. The additional space for 22 more pallets, and the additional loading docks, will allow the company to cool and move product more quickly, Colescott said.

“It used to take us three and a half, four hours to do it before,” he said. “Now we’re able to do it in an hour and 10 minutes.

In addition, Eagle said growth in the company’s snow pea, sugar snap and asparagus lines encouraged Southern Specialties to expand and consolidate. In 2002, asparagus was warehoused in Pompano Beach and Miami.

Southern Specialties also has started shipping heirloom tomatoes, which it will now offer year-round. The tomatoes are shipped under the Southern Select brand at about 30,000 pounds per week, Colescott said.