Cheney Brothers breaks ground on $65-million distribution center in Port St. Lucie

367,425-square-foot facility coming to Legacy Park in Tradition; 275 new jobs expected

A day that has been in the making for quite some time became a reality Wednesday when Cheney Brothers Inc. officially broke ground on its new distribution center in Legacy Park in Tradition.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Wednesday for the new Cheney Brothers distribution center in Legacy Park in Tradition. From left, Cheney Brothers Chief Operating Officer Shane Simmons, Port St. Lucie Mayor Shannon Martin, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Cheney Brothers Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Byron Russell, Laura Russell, Port St. Lucie Councilwoman Stephanie Morgan, Port St. Lucie Councilman David Pickett, Port St. Lucie City Manager Russ Blackburn and Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County President Pete Tesch. Photos by Larry D. Croom

The first phase for the family-owned, South Florida-based food distributor will include construction of a 367,427-square-foot, $65-million warehouse that will include 46 loading docks, a fueling station, refrigeration and freezer space, a test kitchen and offices. When completed next year, the project’s first phase will bring at least 275 jobs to the City of Port St. Lucie, with wages that are 145 percent of the average earnings per worker in St. Lucie County.

“It’s nice to have such a significant investment from a Florida-based company,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who added that by creating jobs here, Cheney Brothers is helping to keep money in the State of Florida. “It doesn’t go to some shareholders in other parts of the country. It all stays right here and it gets spent right here in Florida.”

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis addresses the crowd Wednesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Cheney Brothers distribution center in Legacy Park in Tradition.

Patronis, whose family has been in the restaurant business for about 60 years and for the past eight years has been exclusively a Cheney Brothers customer, said it’s exciting to see such a large investment taking place on the Treasure Coast.

“We’re going to turn dirt and we’re going to make a difference right here in St. Lucie County,” he said.

St. Lucie County Commission Chairman Sean Mitchell said that by opening the new facility here, Cheney Brothers is initially investing more than $65 million in the local community. But he pointed out that the overall investment is really much larger.

Speakers at Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the new Cheney Brothers distribution center in Legacy Park in Tradition included, from left, Pete Tesch, president of the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County; Port St. Lucie Mayor Shannon Martin and St. Lucie County Commission Chairman Sean Mitchell.

“This investment will provide $200,000 a year to fund our fire district, more than $400,000 a year to educate our children, and so much more,” he said. “As great economic development projects like Cheney Brothers come to our county and our city, the county’s tax rates can be decreased without a reduction in services.”

Port St. Lucie Mayor Shannon Martin said she, her fellow City Council members and City Manager Russ Blackburn have waited a long time to celebrate such a wonderful accomplishment for both the city and the county. She said the group had been working on the project before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which quickly slowed progress.

“Today is a special celebration of the future as we welcome this family-run South Florida institution to Port St. Lucie,” Martin said. “The Cheney Brothers groundbreaking is another win for our Southern Grove jobs corridor that will further the city’s strategic goal of building a diverse local economy.”

Cheney Brothers Inc. is building a new 367,427-square-foot warehouse in Port St. Lucie that will include 46 loading docks, a fueling station, refrigeration and freezer space, a test kitchen and offices. When completed next year, the project’s first phase will bring at least 275 jobs to the City of Port St. Lucie, with wages that are 145 percent of the average earnings per worker in St. Lucie County.

Martin added that having the new distribution center in the local area could make a huge difference for local Cheney Brothers employees who currently are commuting from Port St. Lucie to the company’s Riviera Beach facility on a daily basis.

“The opportunity for them to work closer to home will have a direct benefit for those workers and their families, as well as the rest of the 275-plus employees who will be working locally at Cheney,” she said.

Pete Tesch, president of the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County, agreed.

“Our work with businesses interested in locating here in St. Lucie County is exceptionally gratifying when the company is already in the South Florida region and is coming here to grow its footprint rather than relocate existing jobs,” he said. “Having the opportunity to help bring more than 275 great jobs to Port St. Lucie and to Florida is a huge win for the city, the county and the state.”

Byron Russell, who serves as chairman and CEO of Cheney Brothers, told attendees at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new distribution center in Port St. Lucie that he truly appreciates the warm welcome he, his family and his employees have received from the local area. At right is Russell’s wife, Laura.

Byron Russell, who serves as chairman and CEO of Cheney Brothers, said he truly appreciated the warm welcome he, his family and his employees have received from the local area.

“The city, county and state have been exceptional to work with, along with the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County,” Russell said. “We look forward to completing the new facility in 2023 and we look forward to a very long relationship with the city of Port St Lucie and St. Lucie County. We are glad to be here.”

Russell also took a few minutes to thank several longtime Cheney Brothers employees who attended the groundbreaking ceremony. He said he started with the company more than 50 years ago working for his grandfather in a variety of different roles. He added that when he started, Cheney Brothers was doing about $7 million in annual sales compared to $3 billion this year.

“We’ve come a long way,” Russell said to a loud round of applause.

Area officials and local dignitaries joined with Cheney Brothers employees for a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday in Legacy Park in Tradition.

Cheney Brothers was founded in West Palm Beach in 1925 and has since expanded its footprint to Georgia and North Carolina. The company, which is in its fourth generation of family operation, also exports to 110 countries and has added divisions such as CBI Kitchen Designs and affiliate business lines such as Simply Nuts, Crazy Fish International and Grand Western Beef.

The new Port St. Lucie distribution center will be constructed on 53 acres fronting Interstate 95. It will join FedEx Ground and an Amazon delivery station in the industrial park.

When completed, the new facility will service restaurants, clubs and hotels in the region, as well as provide a possible safety net for supplies when hurricanes strike. The facility is expected to expand by another 155,100 square feet with a future phase and the company owns 9.28 adjacent acres for additional expansion when needed, according to a press release from the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County.

See more photos below from Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

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