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N.K.S. consolidating headquarters with new Kent County project

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After decades in New Castle and Milford, N.K.S. Distributors is pulling out of both locations to build a $30 million headquarters and warehouse near Smyrna. The company sells 4.5 million cases of beer per year throughout the state. | COURTESY OF N.K.S. DISTRIBUTORS

SMYRNA — N.K.S. Distributors, the state’s largest alcohol distributor, is consolidating its headquarters off Churchmans Road in New Castle and its Milford warehouse to a new Kent County facility, drawing 140 jobs to the center of the state.

The beer wholesaler will build a $30 million headquarters and a 275,000-square-foot warehouse on Big Woods Road adjacent to the Willis Chevrolet Buick, right in between Route 1 and U.S. Route 13 by spring of 2022. N.K.S. plans on relocating its 100 existing jobs throughout the state to the new headquarters, building off the 40 jobs that already exist in Kent County at its Milford location 2 miles north of Sussex County.

The company plans to create at least four additional jobs by the time it moves to Smyrna, but N.K.S. officials said there’s potential to gradually expand positions year over year. The company also offers around 15 seasonal positions and summer internships through Delaware colleges.

This new warehouse would add 40% more floorspace to N.K.S.’s operations, easily dwarfing both the Churchmans Road’s 120,000-square-foot warehouse and the roughly 45,000-square-foot Milford warehouse.

“We’re excited about this project and what the future holds for us. We really need the space, since we’re packed to the gills already,” N.K.S. Distributors President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Ruggiero told the Delaware Business Times. “I truly believe the labor pool is there in Kent County, from roles anywhere between truck drivers and vice presidents of marketing.”

N.K.S. plans to build its new headquarters at this site on Big Woods Road south of Smyrna. | DBT GRAPHIC

N.K.S. plans to buy the 25 acres from William Willis, the president of the neighboring Willis Chevrolet Buick, instead of continuing to lease space from Bancroft Service Corp. in both the New Castle and Milford warehouses. Settlement on the Smyrna land is expected soon.

The project was also recommended for a $1.15 million grant from the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund (TIIF) Council, making it among the first eight projects to be backed for transportation improvements. Specifically, this grant would support a new traffic signal and widening of Big Woods Road to include shoulders.

Founded in 1949, N.K.S. Distributors sells beer, wine and spirits to liquor stores from Fenwick Island to Naamans Road in Claymont although beer remains its top seller. The company sells 4.5 million cases of beer on an annual basis, ranging from national, regional, and local brands. N.K.S. was awarded the Anheuser-Busch franchise for Delaware. Other products sold include those from Constellation Brands, which includes Corona beer, and Mark Anthony Brands, which features White Claw hard seltzer and Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

N.K.S. has held onto two locations on opposite ends on the states for years, as the distributor moved to Churchmans Road in 1990 and Milford in the 1960s. The Milford warehouse has expanded three times over the course of two decades, rising with the demand that comes with Sussex County’s building boom.

N.K.S., the state’s largest alcohol distributor, will leave its Churchmans Road home in 2022. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

“Right now, we see the growth there in the population because people from surrounding states see the better tax structure we have compared to Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” Ruggiero said. “Before, business in Kent used to be the festival season and Dover Downs and Sussex had the beach season. Now business is growing in Sussex because of more construction work and people moving in.”

While the Sussex County year-round market is prosperous, the alcohol sales in Kent County has stayed relatively flat for N.K.S. although draws like the Delaware State Fair, NASCAR races and college students in Delaware State University bring bright spots. But for N.K.S., Kent County’s central location in the state and available land make it ideal for its future headquarters.

“Right now, our warehouses are 65 miles apart. There’s not a lot of shuffling between warehouses but this will help cut down on the driving needed just to keep everything under one roof,” Ruggiero said. “There’s also easy access to head both north and south with Route 1 and 13 right there.”

N.K.S. contracted with Precision Distribution Consulting in York, Pa., to find its next headquarters based on an annual report of sales and traffic patterns. In the end, the liquor distributor selecting a site 15 miles where Precision recommended.

“Right now, where we are, we’re landlocked. We can’t grow anymore than we have,” Ruggiero added. “But in this new location, there’s plenty of space to add on as we project there will be a need to be.”

By Katie Tabeling

[email protected]

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