Long-vacant warehouse receives $21M revamp

Distributing company moving into old Cooper Tire facility.

By Mark Fisher

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MORAINE — Heidelberg Distributing Co. is breathing new life into the long-shuttered former Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. warehouse at 3601 Dryden Road, investing $21.2 million in renovations and planning to move its north Dayton operations to the mammoth former industrial building in about six months.

The Dayton-based distributor of beer, wine and spirits purchased the 779,000-square-foot building — which is a familiar site to those who drive Interstate 75 through Dayton — for $7.25 million late last year.

After a complex relocation that may occur as early as the first weekend in July, Heidelberg will add about 20 jobs to its 270-member workforce by the end of the year.

In addition, the company is exploring collaborations with other firms — including some of the beer producers whose products Heidelberg distributes — that could bring more jobs to the facility in the future, Heidelberg officials said. And Moraine city officials say Heidelberg’s investment will help them market other abandoned industrial facilities nearby.

Heidelberg officials said the company will borrow a projected $16.8 million, provide $4.2 million in private equity and use a $235,000 ED/GE grant approved by Moraine and Montgomery County officials to pay for the renovations and improvements.

“It is humbling to be working on a $20 million project that will outlive us and which will be here for generations,” said Heidelberg CEO Vail Miller Jr.

The building will increase by fivefold the number of loading docks for Heidelberg delivery trucks, from 12 to at least 60, Miller said. The 32,000-square-foot cooler under construction in the new building will accommodate kegs of beer as well as the six-packs that an increasing number of breweries seek or require to be kept in a temperature-controlled environment for freshness and taste considerations.

The project represents a big leap forward for a family-owned company that started 75 years ago with one man and a truck delivering beer from a Covington, Ky., brewery to thirsty Daytonians in 1938, five years after Prohibition ended. Miller said he believes company founder, his great-grandfather Albert W. Vontz, would be proud of the new Heidelberg building.

Heidelberg has grown to become one of the Mid-west’s larger distributors of beer, wine, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages, distributing more than 5,000 items to restaurants, bars, grocery stores and convenience stores in several counties in and around Dayton. In addition to its Dayton operations, Heidelberg operates facilities in Cincinnati, Evendale, Columbus, Cleveland, Lorain, Toledo and Hebron, Ky. In all, the company employs 1,400 and serves more than 20,000 retail accounts throughout Ohio and Kentucky.

Ohio law requires retailers to purchase alcoholic beverages from licensed distributors and prohibits them from buying directly from producers.

Consumption of alcoholic beverages is among the most recession-proof of businesses — the Ohio Division of Liquor Control reported last week that Ohioans set record highs in both dollar sales and volume sales of liquor in 2012 — and Moraine city officials are pleased to have a stable, reliable company moving into a city hard-hit by automotive plant closings.

Adding up to 300 jobs “is impactful in any community, but especially to a community that has had an exodus of manufacturing jobs” as Moraine did with the loss of a General Motors truck assembly plant and a Del-phi plant, said Michael Davis, Moraine’s director of economic development.

But Davis added that Heidelberg’s purchase and renovation of the former Cooper Tire building “is a really big win” for the broader community. “They could’ve moved this facility a half-hour away,” he said. “We’re retaining 270 to 300 jobs in Montgomery County, with the possibility of more coming in the future.”

Davis said he expects the Heidelberg’s project “will help us revitalize that corridor, and will help us market other properties nearby” that include those former automotive manufacturing facilities that have not been demolished.

Prior to the sale to Heidelberg, there had been “minimal” interest in the former Cooper Tire warehouse since it was closed nearly six years ago, Da-vis said.

Covington Capital purchased Heidelberg’s 244,000-square-foot Leo Street facility, which has housed most of Heidelberg’s Dayton operations since 1956, as part of the Cooper Tire deal, and is currently seeking a tenant or tenants for the seven buildings on the property.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-2258 or email