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Gloves, coats part of standard uniform at Eckert & Millard
COLD--Eckert Pic
A worker at Eckert Cold Storage prepares to wash and sort bell peppers one of the core crops processed at the Moffat Boulevard facility. - photo by 209 file photo

Sit in the stands at Guss Schmiedt Field on a Friday night and you’re bound to experience a plethora of smells.

Tri-tip. Hot dogs. Popcorn. Bell peppers?

It sounds unlikely, but the freshly harvested crop being processed at nearby Eckert Cold Storage – a major supplier to pizza chains throughout the country – adds a unique produce scent that will put any standard produce department to shame.

It also happens to be one of the coolest jobs in Manteca.

For decades the Moffat Boulevard facility has been a major cog in the processing of California’s multi-billion dollar produce empire, and all of those fresh vegetables, once washed and ready to be shipped out to supermarkets and chain buyers, need to be kept cool.

And until Millard Refrigeration Services opened in Spreckels Park – on the heels of the massive Dryer’s Ice Cream distribution center location that opened next door – Eckert was home to some of Manteca’s largest individual coolers for storing processed peppers and other food products before it went out to market.

It also creates hundreds of jobs and narrowly avoided a closure two years ago when the city came up with a way to utilize the nitrate-laden water generated from the washing cycle for other purposes, running purple pipe to divert it rather than sending it through a standard treatment plant.

Having an indoor job, let alone one inside of a refrigerator, is enough to make Colm Sanders – who relies on his car’s air conditioning unit to keep him cool during the hot summer months – jealous.

“I think it would be awesome to be able to wear a jacket to work every day,” he said. “My dad had a friend that worked in a freezer in the Bay Area and he wore gloves and a coat to work every morning. I don’t think I could ever get sick of that.”

It’s the standard uniform over at Millard Refrigeration Services.

One of the nation’s largest cold-storage companies – which was sold last year to a national conglomerate – Millard has 30 locations in 16 states. The 332,000 square-foot boasts 8.8 million cubic-feet of cooler/freezer space and offers a wide range of services like blast freezing and varied temperature ranges.

Translated loosely – it isn’t uncommon for there to be a 140-plus degree swing on a summer day between the temperatures outside and those inside some of the deep freezers that hold pallets full of products that are shipped out through the nearly 60 truck terminals attached to the building.

 To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.