Georgia mulch company pays $2.8M for site near Apopka, plans market entry

An affiliate of Georgia-based Cowart Mulch Products paid $2.8 million on April 13 to enter the Central Florida market by way of Apopka, buying a former lumber yard that it will convert into its first mulch processing and sales facility in Florida. 

Located at 2320 N. Orange Blossom Trail, the 19.9-acre site (6 acres paved) had been originally developed by 84 Lumber. It was acquired in 2009 by Tony Valentine, owner of TNT Equipment Sales & Rentals, where he built five industrial storage buildings in 2005 totaling 50,500 square feet. 

The Columbus, Ohio-based TNT Equipment has operations in Texas and Apopka, but recently opted last year to move its local manufacturing back to Ohio for efficiency, said Greg Rebman, commercial broker with GR Properties and listing agent for Valentine. 

The property is rail-served with space to load cars from both sides, a strong marketing factor for industrial. Rebman listed the property in late September, e-blasted it to more than 1,300 brokers across nine counties, but before doing so sent a notice to four regional brokers that he knew had an eye for sites like this.

One of those four was Justin Ruby of Foundry Commercial. According to Rebman, Ruby responded with interested client Chris Cowart in early October, and the property was under contract by Dec. 10. 

Cowart's tree cutting and mulch business has six locations in Georgia, but this will be its first in Florida. The company is a B2B-only seller of mulch, working closely with landscape architects, landscapers and commercial property managers, along with small and mid-sized hardware stores for its bagged product.

"We're a heavyweight in Georgia in playground surfacing materials, among other areas," business development director Mark Orlandella told GrowthSpotter. "We've started production already down in (Apopka) and are fully up and running on the bulk side of the business. In the next week or two we'll be adding a bagging line there as well." 

Cowart Mulch is pursuing further expansion into Florida, actively scouting for another site in the Central and Southern parts of the state, Orlandella said. 

Orange County approved in March a special exception request to use the Industrial-zoned property as a wood processing facility, to produce mulch for wholesale. Cowart told the county he will maintain the existing five buildings on site. 

Cowart sourced a $7.42 million loan from Wells Fargo Bank to help finance the land acquisition, and establishing the new business in Apopka. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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