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February 28, 2002

Beer distributor serves up Arlington

  • Crown Distributing relocates north of the Everett crowd
  • By TERRY STEPHENS
    Special to the Journal

    Bargreen
    Photo by Terry Stephens
    Peter Bargreen of Crown Distributing believes his new Arlington headquarters means fresh growth for the company; and the new 100-acre Crown Industrial Park means fresh growth for the community, too.

    A 100-acre business park has opened adjacent to the Arlington Airport, with Crown Distributing Co.’s new $12.5 million headquarters as the park’s anchor tenant.

    Seeking a more central distribution point since its purchase of Skagit Distributing Northwest in Burlington, Crown Distributing left Everett after 66 years for Arlington, setting the stage for further growth for both the company and its new community.

    The state-of-the-art building is the anchor tenant for the company’s new 100-acre Crown Park business and commercial center at 172nd (Highway 531) and 59th Street, adjacent to the Arlington airport and less than three miles from I-5 and Highway 9.

    Crown Distributing’s fleet of 35 semi-tractors and trailers and 55 sales vans make deliveries daily to customers in Snohomish, Skagit, Island and San Juan counties, delivering Anheuser-Busch beers such as Budweiser, Redhook, Widmer and Corona, plus non-alcoholic drinks, including Snapple and Cascade Clearwater.

    With 42 percent of the beer and beverage market in stores scattered from the King County line to Whatcom County, Crown Distributing desperately needed room to grow.

    “We outgrew our space in Everett three years ago,” said Peter Bargreen, president and CEO, and one of the fourth-generation owners of the long-time family business. “Skagit Distributing Northwest of Burlington (purchased by Crown in 2000) outgrew their space five years ago. We needed the efficiencies of having everyone together in a more central facility.”

    The project includes the property, road improvements and the $9.7 million office and warehouse building with its eye-appealing design, dominated by a curved-and-canopied front entrance.

    At roughly 112,000 square feet, the building includes 29,000 square feet of office space (compared to only 9,000 square feet in the Everett facility) and 83,000 square feet of temperature-controlled warehouse space, as well as room to expand to a total of 150,000 square feet.

    Multiple loading docks provide ample room for the firm’s fleet of vehicles, solving a serious problem that hampered operations at the former Everett site where trucks had to take turns at the warehouse because of space limitations.

    “In the new facility we have ample space and room to grow, with plenty of space for all of the trucks,” he said.

    And, there’s plenty of space – and amenities – for the 135 employees, too.


    Why the move?
    It was a shock to the Everett business community two years ago when Peter Bargreen announced his family’s Crown Distributing Co. would leave the city where his grandfather Howard Bargreen founded the wholesale beverage business in 1934.

    Since 1934, the business has moved and expanded in Everett four times. But by the late 1990s, the fourth-generation family owners – Peter Bargreen, John Bargreen, Gigi Burke and Greg Blunt – could see another move would soon be needed.

    That decision was hastened when the city of Everett established a hazardous household waste collection facility adjacent to Crown’s headquarters and warehouse in the city’s downtown industrial center.

    Crown’s beverage supplier, Anheuser-Busch, objected to having one of its leading distributors so close to hazardous materials. Negotiations with the city to resolve the situation were futile, leaving a move as the best option, Peter Bargreen said.

    Traffic congestion was partly to blame, too. Frequent gridlock on I-5 at the 41st Street exit and the ramps to the Highway 2 trestle was becoming increasingly frustrating and costly to delivery firms such as Crown Distributing, Bargreen said. But the move doesn’t mean Crown Distributing’s presence in Everett has completely vanished.

    “Some of our families still live there and we’re still very active in our roles in Everett, including schools and other community groups,” said Gigi Burke, vice president of corporate affairs.

    “We still serve Everett (customers) and we’re there daily for various things (in the business and the community),” she said. “In many ways, we haven’t really left.”

    “We want our employees to enjoy their work areas. They’ve been excited about being here,” Bargreen said, noting that many of them were already living in the Arlington and Marysville area and are now enjoying a shorter commute as well.

    There are ample reasons for them to be excited — from the expansive entrance lobby with its colorful slate flooring of India stone to the warmth of the cherry-wood executive office space and the second-floor gathering area with a gas fireplace and overstuffed leather furniture.

    “We’re the sixth largest Anheuser-Busch distributor in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. They like their distributorships to reflect the quality image that Anheuser-Busch projects with their facilities, so we tried to accommodate that,” Bargreen said.

    As for amenities, the facility includes a kitchen and two breakrooms for employees; a small gymnasium with a three-quarter-sized basketball court that also provides room for volleyball and pickleball; a weight room with high-tech exercise equipment and even a game room for visiting children.

    “We wanted to offer our employees a place for their children to come after school, or when school is closed, and their parents need a place for them to study, read or play games,” Bargreen said. “It’s not a day-care facility, but more of a convenience for working parents.”

    The company headquarters is built not only for the employees but also for corporate functions. The second-floor reception area with the fireplace and couches is adjacent to a high-tech meeting room for up to 70, equipped to project computer images, DVD movies and PowerPoint presentations.

    The community has welcomed Crown’s arrival, Bargreen said, noting that the Arlington City Council and Mayor Bob Kraski have been very receptive to the firm’s move.

    “They’ve been absolutely great to work with. We couldn’t have gotten this done as fast without the help from the city of Arlington,” said Bargreen, who added that further site work will include underground wires in front of the facility along 172nd Street Northeast and moving power poles along the north side of the site to accommodate the city’s plans to widen 172nd.

    “I think our biggest contribution to the community will be in property tax revenue as we grow the (business) park. It’s sure to be in the millions by the time the park is built out. The city will do quite well,” he said.

    And how well is Crown Distributing Co. doing?

    “We’re doing very well,” Bargreen said. “We don’t talk about revenues but we can say that we figure on selling 4.3 million cases of product this year. By 2006, if we continue to consolidate (buying other smaller distributors) as we plan, we could grow that volume to 6 million cases.”

    The new Arlington facility also is home to the company’s rapidly growing Crown Graphics division, a creator and producer of banners, logos and other artwork for promoting the company’s wholesale products. The graphics staff also does artwork for outside clients.

    Also, there’s Crown Development LLC, a separate company owned by the same shareholders who own Crown Distributing. It’s been building townhomes, condominiums and small commercial properties in King County for several years, with Greg Blunt as president.

    The 100-acre Crown Park, involving Crown Development and a silent partner, is the company’s first industrial project.


     


    Terry Stephens is a freelance writer based in Arlington. He can be reached by e-mail at features@gte.net.



     


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