Alcoholic Beverage Distributor Champion Brands Expands
Source: Jacksonville Business Journal | By: Dahlia Ghabour
Jacksonville-based beverage distributor Champion Brands is beginning work today on a $6 million, 36,000-square-foot headquarters, nearly five times the size of its current space.
After the company moves into its new home at 5220 Florida Mining Blvd. South, the current 8,000-square-foot office will be torn down and replaced with 40,000 square feet of warehouse space, adding to the 140,000 square feet of warehouse space it now has.
It’s a move to invest in the company’s future, said Champion Brands president Earl Benton.
“We think long term it will be good for employee retention,” Benton said. “We want someone to be proud to say, ‘I work at Champion Brands.’”
Founded in 1985, Champion Brands has 308 employees, handles 1,500 products and 62 suppliers worldwide.
The new facility will feature a gym, a taproom for product sampling, a backyard fire pit and green space for company barbecues, and a 250-seat meeting space. Champion Brands is working with Sauer Inc. and Harley & Carter Inc. for the project, scheduled to open by March 2019.
The new facility will also have solar panels just like Champion Brands’ current headquarters at 5571 Florida Mining Blvd. South does. The company receives 20 percent of its power from 340 photovoltaic panels on the roof.
Benton said keeping things green is a priority both for Champion Brands and for its suppliers. In addition to the solar panels, 95 percent of the trucks Champion Brands utilizes run on compressed natural gas, with expectations to hit 100 percent next year.
“One of the reasons our employees like it so much is the trucks are quieter,” Benton said. There’s no loud diesel engine, and when they fuel the trucks, they don’t get any diesel fuel on their hands. There’s no residue. It’s a win-win.”
The CNG-fueled trucks last 30 percent longer, Benton said, and mileage between oil changes is tripled because the engine runs so cleanly. Though each truck costs about $180,000, they last longer.
Benton said he sees the expansion of his company as an investment into the Jacksonville community – one that he says is “ripe for growth.”
“In the next three to five years, Jacksonville will have more growth than we’ve seen in the last 15 years,” Benton said. “And as other suppliers come to our headquarters, they’re going to see that we’re equipped, that we can have sales meetings. We need for them to understand that this is a building of permanence here.”
More partnerships are on the way for Champion Brands, too. The company recently began its first coffee partnership distributing nitro kegs from Bold Bean Coffee Co. Next on the list is hard liquor, with partnerships in the works in Jacksonville and St. Augustine to be announced in the coming months.
Benton credits the company’s success to his “good people” and said that keeping them happy and building company pride has helped his team continue to win. He aims for “slow, steady growth of between two percent and three percent a year” – and looks for the same values in suppliers.
“A company has to be profitable or there’s no company,” he said. “So when you put together a group of people who like what they’re doing, who look forward to coming to work, and there’s just a little money left over every year you can call profit, that’s success. Because if you stand still today, you’re done. You’re a target and someone will knock you off.”