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Epsom salt empire rising: Giles Chemical plans new warehouse

haywoodBusiness is booming for a Waynesville factory that mixes and packages Epsom salt. Giles Chemical has doubled its employees over the past decade to 150 and plans to build a 35,000-square-foot warehouse to accommodate its growing trade.

“We have run out of effective storage capacity for both in-bound raw materials and finished goods,” said Matt Haynes, director of operations at Giles Chemical.

Giles has the little known claim-to-fame as the biggest Epsom salt maker in North America. But it’s run out of space at its hemmed-in factory and packinghouse on the outskirts of downtown Waynesville in Frog Level.

The warehouse will be used to store both in-bound raw materials and the finished Epsom salt waiting to be shipped out around the world.

“As we continue to grow and expand, thankfully, we need additional warehousing facilities to house product and manage the growing market,” Haynes said.

The new warehouse will be off-site but nearby in the industrial district of Hazelwood, on part of what’s commonly known as the old tannery site.

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Giles’ own growth parallels growing consumer demand for Epsom salt — rather than attrition of other Epsom salt makers.

“It is a growing market,” Haynes said. “We aren’t necessarily stealing market share — it is growth in the demand.”

Epsom salt has a litany of uses. It has a growing fan base as an organic, home remedy for a multitude of ailments and relaxation spa treatment. Giles packages the salt for personal use in 3-, 4- and 5-pound cartons and pouches.

But it also ships out pallets stacked with 100-pound bags, headed for industrial uses.

Both sectors are growing, Haynes said, and that’s good news for the community and jobs.

“I think a healthy industrial sector is key to absorbing some of the ups and downs of our economy these days,” Haynes said.

The new warehouse won’t do anything to alleviate the volume of tractor-trailers navigating the narrow town streets and tight-quarters of its main hub in Frog Level.

Neighbors have complained over the years about the unrelenting stream of big-rigs that block their driveways and the road when backing in and out of Giles.

“I would not project a significant change in the truck traffic,” Haynes said.

Ultimately, the raw ingredients still have to be brought in to the plant and the finished product shipped out — so the off-site warehouse won’t mean any fewer trucks of note at its main site, Haynes said.

The new warehouse is pending town zoning approval. It meets the guidelines for industrial districts, but due to it’s size, it must be approved by the planning board — any building over 10,000-square-feet gets an extra layer of vetting for compliance with site design, architectural design and landscaping criteria. But it is expected to be approved.

“The industrial district has the least number of architectural design requirements,” said Jason Rogers, town building inspector. “It is a very cut-and-dry thing.”

The new warehouse will be located along Giles Way, a small side street off Hazelwood Avenue near the railroad tracks. It won’t be visible from Hazelwood Avenue or any other thoroughfare in the area, Rogers said.

 

What is Epsom salt?

It’s a compound derived from magnesium and sulfur. Epsom salt has been exalted as a folk remedy for a wide-range of ailments — from sunburns and muscle aches to stress relief and beauty treatments. They have varied industrial uses, too, from agriculture to a manufacturing additive.

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