Venus swimwear company expanding at One Imeson to handle growth

Seamstresses work at the EastPark Venus headquarters to make swimwear.
Seamstresses work at the EastPark Venus headquarters to make swimwear.
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As beach season nears, a Jacksonville-based women’s swimwear company that has grown from less than $30 million in annual sales to more than $300 million in eight years is expanding to handle ongoing growth.

Venus, a 35-year-old designer, maker and seller of bathing suits and women’s apparel, is expanding into 224,000 square feet at One Imeson in North Jacksonville.

“This expansion is the result of our continued business growth and confidence that it will continue in the years ahead,” said Venus President Jim Brewster.

Venus sells bathing suits and clothing online and by catalog. It remains based at 11711 Marco Beach Drive in the EastPark business center in Southside.

Brewster said Venus began leasing 100,000 square feet at Imeson in early 2015, taking space intended for use by Body Central Corp., which shut down.

Venus signed a lease last year to expand. Brewster said the company is relocating from the original 100,000 square feet into larger separate space, more than doubling in size.

The facility is at 1 Imeson Park Blvd. in the Imeson International Industrial Park. The city is reviewing a permit for contractor Rick Haskew to renovate the expansion space at a cost of $451,539.

It should be completed in the second quarter.

Venus began in founder Daryle Scott’s Stetson University dorm room when he started a mail-order business for competitive bodybuilding suits.

Scott transformed the business into swimwear sales and, with other owners, built it into a significant company.

They sold it in 2006 but after it faltered, Scott was enlisted to help sell it again.

Brewster helped arrange that sale in 2009 to the bonprix European mail-order clothing company and came onboard as CEO and president.

Brewster now is president and Sascha Peters, a former bonprix executive in Germany, is CEO.

Brewster said the EastPark building, at 128,000 square feet, will retain the administration, customer service, call center, swim manufacturing, returns processing, offices and other functions.

The Imeson move will free up the current distribution space in EastPark for expansion of those functions, which include merchandising, marketing, IT and creative operations.

Imeson will accommodate most of its fulfillment operation, which is to pick, pack and ship orders.

Brewster said Venus has almost 1,000 employees, with about 75 of those at Imeson. After the expansion, there will be about 500 each at EastPark and Imeson.

“The business continues to grow, so the plan is to be in aggressive growth mode,” he said.

Brewster said Venus still makes a little less than 50 percent of its swimwear in Jacksonville; the rest is made in the U.S. and internationally.

“We have to be one of the last companies to manufacture swimsuits ourselves in the USA, and one of the main reasons we continue to do it is so we can guarantee a high quality swimsuit for our customers,” he said.

Brewster said the company has been growing so quickly it cannot find enough employees to sew in Jacksonville.

“Our preference is to do it here,” he said, but Venus can’t find the hundreds of seamstresses it needs.

He said Venus employs about 100 seamstresses and will hire more, but they are hard to find.

The company also sells fashion products other than swimsuits. Those are made in United States, Europe and the Far East. The majority is imported.

Scott remains active with the company. Brewster said Scott is the head of operations for two of its recent sister companies: the Creation L clothing for women, whose customers average the age of 60, and Lascana swimsuits and clothing, whose average customer age is 35.

Venus customers range in age from 20-80, with most 35-50. The average age is 43, he said.

1 Daily’s Place to hit the map

A public hearing is scheduled March 14 at City Council for ordinance 2017-159 to create the address 1 Daily’s Place for the amphitheater and flex field under development at EverBank Field.

To assign it, requirements of the city’s addressing and street naming policy must be waived to create a site address for the facilities independent of the street name and assign out-of-sequence address numbers.

EverBank Field is at 1 EverBank Field Drive.

Jacksonville-based First Coast Energy LLP, which owns the Daily’s gas station and convenience store chain, holds naming rights to the amphitheater and flex field.

Retail notes

• Pet Supermarket will soon take shape at Landmark Station. Contractor O.R. “Dicky” Smith & Co. Inc. is the contractor to handle interior demolition of almost 7,000 square feet at 12740 Atlantic Blvd. Three units — 101-103 — will be renovated and combined. Pet Supermarket is expected to open midyear next to Epik Burger, which remains in the eastern end unit. Pet Supermarket becomes the first junior anchor at the neighborhood shopping center.

• Pet Supermarket, along with AT&T, also will open at Village Commons, the new shopping center by Rimrock Companies at 4490-4492 Southside Blvd. First Watch, The Daytime Café, will be there, too. The city is reviewing shell work for Pet Supermarket in 6,900 square feet and an AT&T Store in 1,700 square feet at the project.

Food notes

• Chipotle Mexican Grill is closer to building in Regency. The city is reviewing a permit for a 2,700-square-foot shell building at 9395 Atlantic Blvd., where the vacant Pier 1 Imports store is set for demolition. Capital Growth Buchalter of Vestavia Hills, Ala., near Birmingham, is the developer.

• Cold Stone Creamery is going into Palmetto Point at 14035 Beach Blvd. A pending permit shows a $125,000 build-out for 2,400 square feet in No. 107. Taziki’s Mediterranean Café is next door in No. 108. Palmetto Point is the new center built on the site of a former Golden Corral in front of the Regal Cinemas Beach Boulevard.

• Earth Fare Inc. applied for a Certificate of Use for its newest organic grocery store that will open at 11700 San Jose Blvd. in the Mandarin South Shopping Center. No opening date has been scheduled.

• Arizona-based Grabbagreen has opened at 90 Riverside Ave. in Brooklyn Station on Riverside. The fast-casual food and juice restaurant specializes in organic foods, antibiotic- and hormone-free beef, fresh-pressed juice and whole food smoothies. The official grand opening will be April 2. Owner Randy Jeppesen of Team Jepp of Riverside LLC plans additional locations in the Town Center area and in Jacksonville Beach.

• The St. Johns River Water Management District is reviewing plans for redevelopment of Palencia Commons Shopping Center in St. Johns County to include a Publix Super Markets Inc. store.

The 8.44-acre property at U.S. 1 south of Palencia Village Drive will be redeveloped to include a 45,600-square-foot grocery store and 27,360 square feet of retail shops and restaurants.

While the plans did not specify Publix, Franklin Street and Cape Asset Management announced in late 2016 that Publix executed a 20-year lease to anchor Palencia Commons at 7458 U.S. 1 N. in St. Augustine, at the entrance to the Palencia development.

The 45,600-square-foot Publix will be the first grocery store tenant there since Food Lion closed in 2012. The Publix space will be completely redeveloped within the center. It is expected the build-out could be complete by 2018.

Construction plans filed with the district say the first phase will include the grocery store and 10,480-square-feet of shops. The second phase of 16,880 square feet will add more shops and restaurants.

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