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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Feb. 26, 201905:20 AM EST

The Mathis Report: Load King seeking city land for expansion

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Company that designs and installs retail store and restaurant interiors wants to buy 1.96 acres.

Load King Manufacturing Co. wants to buy land from the city to expand in the New Town area and Rail Yard District west of Downtown.

City Council is reviewing Ordinance 2019-135 that requests the city sell two parcels totaling 1.96 acres at Union Street and Myrtle Avenue to Load King for $324,000, the appraised value of the property.

Load King designs, fabricates, delivers and installs retail store and restaurant interiors and packages throughout the United States. Customers include Al’s Pizza, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Edwin Watts Golf, Caribou Coffee and Starbucks. Nonretail customers include Baptist Health.

The privately held company, which did not immediately return an email Monday, says on its website that it has completed more than 8,500 projects nationwide.

Load King owns 8.26 acres at 1357 W. Beaver St. next to the property and wants to expand its manufacturing business. Property records show about 204,000 square feet of manufacturing and distribution space in four buildings constructed since 1919.

Load King wants to buy and redevelop the property to build new warehousing and shipping facilities, including a new cross-dock shipping facility that will allow Load King to expand its commercial kitchen resale division.

The legislation, introduced by District 9 council member Garrett Dennis, says the company “has actively recruited and employed members of the local community.”

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It says the proposal will result in additional jobs but did not say how many people Load King employs or intends to add.

A 2015 Facebook post by then-mayoral candidate Lenny Curry, who now seeks a second term, said Load King employed at least 150 people.

The company first operated as Southeastern Sales at the Beaver Street location in 1958 and has operated on-site as Load King since 1972, according to the legislation.

The ordinance approves and authorizes the mayor to execute a real estate purchase and sales agreement between the city and Load King and to execute deeds and closing documents.

Load King agreed to relocate a lessee from the property and pay up to $70,000 to the city for improvements at city property or to move the tenant to another city site.

One piece of land is a Rails-to-Trails parcel that Load King will buy for $59,000. The second piece is used by Head Start, which Load King will buy for $265,000. 

Council must waive the city ordinance code regarding preservation of park land to allow for a direct sale. 

The legislation says it is city policy that no park-related land or space be converted or sold by the city. “However, in this case, the Council finds that the sale of the subject parcels to Load King meets a greater public good.”

The bill says the sale of the land and conversion of park land to office-warehouse for business expansion will create job opportunities and eliminate blighted conditions.

Sale proceeds will be put into the Jacksonville Recreational and Environmental Land Acquisition Capital Projects Funds to maintain or buy park land in District 9.

The city will relocate the Head Start program to the Florida C. Dwight Memorial Playground or another location agreeable to the city and the program. Load King will contribute $70,000 to the city to assist with that move.

Load King’s website says the company started in 1958 when James Merrill Chupp retired from Winn-Dixie and started S.E. Sales Co., an equipment consolidator servicing the supermarket industry.

In 1973, Chupp and his two sons, Jimmy and Charles, purchased metal-working equipment and begin manufacturing and selling goods directly, the site says.

It is led by President and CEO Charles Chupp, Vice President Todd Chupp and Treasurer and CFO Carrie Chupp, according to state records.

Load King says it is a turnkey company with four divisions – architecture, graphics, manufacturing and construction.

A 2015 Daily Record report said the company continues to operate out of its initial building, a 1919 structure renovated for its use. 

That property, which reportedly was Winn-Dixie’s headquarters before it moved further west, grew to more than 200,000 square feet of production space by the time Load King moved in.

The report said records showed the company also has more space nearby, and its website said it possessed 300,000 square feet of production space “to satisfy the demand of even the largest of projects.”

A description on Glassdoor, a job-search firm, said Load King makes and installs equipment and fixtures, such as metal and wood fabrication, for supermarkets, restaurants and retail stores. 

It said products include counters, shelving systems, sinks and displays. The LK Industries division provides turnkey store packages, including designs, equipment, fixtures, millwork and other services. 

Glassdoor also said that in addition to installing fixtures and equipment, Load King’s specialists and project managers help clients to design, build, and open new stores and help identify ways to cut costs and save money. 

The company, which is increasingly doing business as LK Industries, can also design artwork for signage, menu boards and logos.

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