In 103-degree summer weather, Jimmy Shrull can often be found on rooftops around town. During week-long stretches, that means hours spent in what might be the hottest place to work in Gilroy.
“It can be very miserable,” Shrull said with a laugh. But it’s also tradition, as his family has owned the company for four generations, since 1932.
Summer is the roofer’s busy season. He and his four-man crew make up Jimmy Shrull Roofing, and they work all over the South Bay, roofing and reroofing while there’s no rain to slow down projects. When it cools off, Shrull primarily fixes leaks.
In addition to the sweltering weather around them, the roofers handle tile and asphalt shingles that heat up to scalding. Thick, lined gloves guard their hands. But extra safety gear also means extra heat.
They drink plenty of water and take breaks when needed. One benefit of working in an oven is that a paper bag lunch doesn’t have to be served cold.
“We’ll wrap burritos in foil and let them heat up while we’re up there,” Shrull said.
In a sprawling warehouse off of Venture Way, general manager Crystal Brennan and her team go to work in its freezer—a stark contrast to Shrull’s workplace and the summer weather outside.
United Natural Foods in Gilroy stocks just about every organic food product imaginable, as well as shampoo, shaving cream, garlic pills and one entire storeroom of chocolate and peanut butter products—the aromatherapy room, as building and grounds manager Scott Burt put it.
Ice cream is a key product here. Of the 452,000-square-foot warehouse, approximately 45,800 square feet are the freezer where desserts and frozen burritos are kept.
Within UNFI, an outer room is kept at 38 degrees so that frozen products stay cool before they’re loaded onto trucks.
But through a door on the right, the freezer room is minus 10 degrees. It’s so cold inside, that when moisture sweeps in from the outside, it freezes in ice pockets along the rafters and then drifts to the floor like snow.
The workers here have to wear an assortment of gear to keep comfortable. Padded yellow snow suits, freezer socks and ski masks. Their gloves sit ready to wear on a rack of heating vents outside.
There are about 180 people currently working in this frigid environment at the Gilroy facility, according to Josephine Eke, UNFI’s vice president of branding and communications.
“Our freezer associates can come out of the freezer to stretch and warm up at any time they are experiencing cold stress and feel they need to warm up,” Eke wrote in an email.
While they can’t grill their lunches on rooftops, they can take part in the company store on their 30-minute meal break. Products whose packaging broke or got damaged end up here for employees to buy at reduced prices. After one lunch, an empty bag of chips and a bottle of root beer are left behind in the store.