A drop shipping fulfillment service is under contract to buy the shuttered Walmart Supercenter building on the Evangeline Thruway and move its operations there.
Completeful, which currently has 100 employees, will consolidate its operations from three facilities in Lafayette Parish into the 228,000-square-foot building, officials announced Monday morning. It plans to add another 100 employees this year and employs as many as 500 during peak production periods.
The company will move into the old Walmart building that’s been vacant for two years and in an area that has seen a significant amount of disinvestment since then. It’s the biggest investment made in a property along the Evangeline Thruway in north Lafayette in years.
The deal is expected to close Tuesday, Completeful CEO Josh Goree said. The building, located in an Opportunity Zone, was listed at $5.75 million.
“This project will be a game-changer for north Lafayette and the city as a whole,” City Councilman Glenn Lazard said. “It’s what I would call a foundational project because it’s going to lay the foundation for future development. This is only the beginning. It’s important that when people arrive in Lafayette, their impression goes a long way about what kind of community this is. I can’t wait to see this building up and running.”
The company, which began in Goree’s garage when he built a laser engraver and focused on wedding-related products, has had significant growth since then. Eventually the business moved into fulfillment to give small businesses the opportunity to sell similar products without the upfront costs of machinery and overhead.
The expansion, officials with the Lafayette Economic Development Authority noted, will allow the company to expand from 5,000 orders a day to 30,000. It has grown at least 200% annually with more than 1 million orders fulfilled.
One of its three facilities is the former Nabisco building at 3136 NE Evangeline Thruway. That building was supposed to enough room for a couple of years, he said, “but it only lasted about six months.”
“Being able to operate under one roof has always been the goal, but we have been growing so fast that we have been unable to find a building with enough power and space to accommodate that,” Goree said. “The new Completeful facility will provide both. We have yet to be in a building that has all the power and all the space we need to operate efficiently. We will occupy 50% of that (Walmart building) right off the bat.”
A drop shipment center houses equipment and materials that small business owners, often times home-based businesses, can use to manufacture their products to sell to customers. It removes the cost of any equipment as a burden to doing business, and the drop shipping supplier ships the product to the customer.
About 62% of American shoppers said they are shopping more online now than prior to the pandemic, according to LEDA’s report.
Completeful stocks the blank products, creates the personalized product and ships it to the customer.
“it is wonderful news that a building which sat vacant for two years will return to commerce with a high-growth company as its occupant,” said Gregg Gothreaux, LEDA president and CEO. “Completeful will provide new employment opportunities to nearby residents and may spur renewed interest in development in the area.”
The company will need a variety of employees once it gets established, Goree said, including engineers since the building will house robots and some automation. Also needed will be programmers, business managers, janitors, packagers and painters.
Pay will start at $12 an hour with no cap on what an employee can earn, he said. The building will also house a daycare center for children of employees.
“We need everything,” he said. “It’s easier to say just about any kind of job you can think of. We want to get into food prep. There will be cooks (needed). Just about everything you can think of, we’ll try to hire for it.”
Goree said the exterior of the building will be updated and the parking lot will be welcomed since the current locations don’t have ample parking for employees.
“This particular building has potential for blight and other activities that’s not helpful to our community,” Mayor-President Josh Guillory said. “We need leaders like Josh to come in and revitalize and an invest in an area of our city that is very much disinvested. Give us a little time, and we’ll get to where we need to be. This area of our city has the potential to be great.”