FLORENCE TOWNSHIP, NJ---Success is on display everyday for David Dunigan and his employees at Modern Store Equipment, a Florence Township manufacturer and distributor of custom wine racks, shelving and walk in coolers used by retailers of alcohol beverages.
Back in 1958, when the company was first started by Dunigan’s late father Thomas Dunigan, in the basement of his grandmother’s house, the focus was on refrigerated supermarket display cases. While attending Hamilton High School West in 1979, David started working on an installation crew for the family business.
By 1980, Dunigan was working full time for the company, while earning his business degree at Mercer Community College. “By the time I started full time at the company, my dad recognized that our market was shifting from the mom and pop supermarkets to retail liquor stores,” said Dunigan. “Because supermarkets were becoming major entities, there was no way we could have kept up with the growth of that industry; so it only made sense for us to grow with and service retailers in the alcohol beverage industry that were small businesses like ourselves.”
The strategy has certainly paid off for the Dunigan family and Modern Store Equipment. For 32 years, the company had operated out of a space that it owned in Bordentown. However Dunigan realized that the company was outgrowing the space and felt in order to take the company to the next level he needed a larger facility.
After finding the perfect spot in Florence Township, Dunigan realized he was going to need help with financing the project. When he approached his lender First Choice Bank, they immediately put him in touch with the Regional Business Assistance Corporation (RBAC) of Mercerville. RBAC’s Director of Financial Programs Nathalia Giraldo discussed the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 504 Loan program with Dunigan and walked him through the application process.
“The SBA 504 loan is designed to assist small businesses like Modern Store Equipment obtain long-term financing for capital assets like the purchase of real estate and costly equipment,”said SBA New Jersey District Director Al Titone. “With financing available for up to 90% of the project cost, SBA 504 loans offer an affordable down payment, enabling the entrepreneur to conserve working capital and retain liquidity to meet operating needs.”
RBAC, an SBA Certified Development Company partnered with the SBA to provide Dunigan with financing for 40 percent of the project, while First Choice Bank provided financing for 50 percent of the project. Dunigan was required to put up 10 percent of the project, which allowed him to purchase the building, rehab the facility and add solar panels to the roof.
“We recognize that small business owners sometimes have more difficulty getting traditional business financing that is needed to grow their businesses,” added Titone. “Our Partnerships with the Regional Business Assistance Corporation and First Choice Bank allow the SBA to make 504 financing available to business owners like David Dunigan to make the investment in their own facilities and allow them to continue to expand and create new jobs. In the long run, the community gets the benefit of additional jobs, business growth and tax revenues from a growing small business.”
Today, Modern Store Equipment and its 35 employees are now thriving in their new 24,000 square foot facility in Florence Township. With the SBA loan Dunigan was able to purchase, rehab the building, and add clean solar energy to the facility through the installation of solar panels on the new facility’s roof. It also allowed him to keep the company’s Bordentown facility, which is now used for warehousing.
Together with his wife Lisa, who is the company’s Secretary and Treasurer and his sister Lynda who is the company’s Vice President, Modern Store Company is doing 50 to 60 store installations per year. “Our main customer base is New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland,” said Dunigan. “However some of our work with major chains has taken us to Washington State, Fort Worth, Texas, Colorado, California and Florida.”
“We have done 25,000 square foot designs, layouts and installations for some of the chains,” said Dunigan. “We worked with Total Wine & More when they started in Delaware with one store. They are now the largest wine retailer in the country with 80 stores and we have been involved in every one of the designs and installations.”
According to Dunigan, tractor trailers pull up to the company’s loading docks and custom woodwork displays, fixtures, metal shelving and walk in refrigerators are loaded up and shipped off to the next destination. If the job is outside the area, installers are flown to the location where they coordinate with local crews that the company works with to complete an installation.
“When the economy slowed down, instead of retreating, we took a different tack by aggressively investing in the business,” said Dunigan. “We added a salesman; purchased new automated equipment that makes production faster and more efficient, and we revamped our website, all of which has helped us to substantially grow the business while others were contracting.”
“SBA financing came at a time when we were outgrowing our Bordentown facility and it was the only way we could have expanded into this facility,” said Dunigan. “The building was an eyesore and the SBA funds allowed us to purchase the property and rehab the building. The solar panels also allow us to produce clean energy and have helped us reduce our monthly utility bills and overhead measurably. It has been a win-win for us financially.”
Dunigan also credits the Florence Township officials for making the transition seamless.“They were very supportive of the project and helped us expedite the process so we could get up and running.”
“The business continues to grow,” said Dunigan. “We have positioned ourselves as the experts in the equipment business for the wine and spirits industry. We have doubled the production out of the shop this year and are looking for faster equipment so we can do even more next year.”