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Berk grows southward

Second warehouse in Mississippi will serve the Southern states

WARREN — Berk Enterprises Inc., the family-owned supplier of disposable food service and concession products to customers across the U.S., is expanding into Mississippi with its second warehouse / distribution center.

The move, said new CEO Reilly Berk, will allow the company to better serve customers in the South while at the same time save it money in freight costs and lay the groundwork for future growth in that region.

Also, the new warehouse gives Berk Enterprises more control over distribution, rather than using a third-party logistics firm to help move goods.

The plan is to start moving containers and goods into the warehouse in Mississippi’s capital city, Jackson, in November and be fully operational by Jan. 1.

BERK 2.0

“Basically, we have a lot of big goals and dreams and plans for the company. We have evolved a lot since we were founded in 1946, but I have bigger plans and ideas for the next 10 years, so we wanted to better service our customers in the South, Southeast,” Berk said.

“A perfect example, when we are shipping to somewhere in Florida from Warren, the cost to truck that from Warren to Florida is way more expensive than being in Mississippi or Texas or somewhere down there. (A) shorter distance is going to be cheaper, it’s going to allow us to be more competitive and service our customers better in the South,” she said.

From its Thomas Road SE, Warren, headquarters / distribution center, the shipping “sweet spot” falls within a 500-mile radius, Berk said. Jackson, Miss., gives the company another 500-mile radius with some overlap.

A team from the company examined where to try to locate a second warehouse, and Jackson was the best geographical option — it is a growing distribution hub and close enough to the ports.

Berk Enterprises will hire 30 to 40 employees for the warehouse, for now a 107,000-square-foot building the company is renting. There is talk already of adding an additional 70,000 square feet to the building because of the “volume we think we are going to have,” Berk said.

“There is a lot of new business already in the pipeline that actually will be serviced out of Mississippi,” Berk said.

Steve Cain of Lordstown, warehouse manager in Warren, will spend about six weeks in Jackson to ready the facility. Already for the Jackson facility the company has hired warehouse and inbound / outbound managers, who will be at the Warren center for training in October.

Part of the growth plan after starting up the Jackson warehouse and making it profitable could include further expansion west.

“She has such a great vision that she is going to make sure this vision is going to become a reality,” said Rob Berk, company president and Reilly’s father. “Under her realm, I think the growth potential is quite positive, and nothing is going to stop her.”

The company’s Warren warehouse has 165,000 square feet. It also rents about 280,000 square feet at the Ohio Commerce Center in Lordstown. Both are running out of space.

“We are growing, which is really exciting,” Berk said. “We are passing all of our sales targets for the year, which is great, but that was another reason. We needed more space and we figured we would move somewhere else to be more competitive and help our customers long-term.”

The company has about 90 employees.

EVOLUTION

Reilly Berk, 24, is the third generation of the Berk family to work at the business founded by Harold and Suzanne Berk. Early on, there were three companies: Berk Exterminating Company, Warren Coin Shop and Warren Paper and Sanitation, which later became Berk Paper and Supply.

Son, Robert, came on board when his father died unexpectedly and began to diversify the company’s product line.

It now largely consists of three divisions: Berk Concession Supply that services the amusement industry, from carnivals to zoos to outdoor entertainment venues with food service products; Berkley Square, which provides plastic cutlery and other items like microwaveable bowls and containers; and Environ, a line of biodegradable, compostable corn starch-based cutlery and sugar cane-based plates, bowls and containers.

She started working with the family business at around 12 years old part-time on school breaks or holidays “wherever I was needed just to try to learn as much as I could.”

A 2020 graduate of Kent State University and later from Cleveland State University with a master’s degree in business administration, Reilly Berk worked for a period at a logistics company in Cleveland before coming back to Berk Enterprises.

She started in sales then became the director of operations for about a year. She transitioned to CEO around July.

Reilly is the oldest of five siblings, including triplet sisters. One, Savannah, works at the company as an account manager and her brother, Jaden, who is still in college, Reilly Berk said, works there now some, too, and wants to join after college.

Her mom, Brigitt, helps in human resources. Reilly Berk’s other sisters, Zoe and Karsyn, don’t work for the company, but help often in various ways at the business.

The dynamic has “been amazing. It’s so much fun working together. We’re lucky in that way,” Reilly Berk said.

rselak@tribtoday.com

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