If you visit a retailer most anywhere in Central Florida, find something you like and buy it, there’s a very good chance it was warehoused at least for a short time — and perhaps even produced — in a building owned and managed by The Ruthvens.
Established in Lakeland in 1957 by Joe P. Ruthven, The Ruthvens is Central Florida’s leading family-owned warehouse company. With more than 80 buildings and 3 million square feet of warehouse space, the company serves approximately 300 tenants.
The Ruthvens has grown in nearly 60 years to become one of the largest companies in Central Florida, but its formula remains simple.
“We build space and lease it,” company President Greg Ruthven says. “From pet foods to caskets to clothing to cotton balls sold at Publix, we warehouse many of the things you’ll find in the local stores.
“We have some retailing and some fast food (space), but commercial warehousing is 95 percent of what we do.”
The Ruthvens’ buildings accommodate a wide variety of needs, from high-dock to ground-level warehousing, from light assembly and manufacturing plants to logistics and distribution centers, and from retail complexes to office space.
Customers include Phillips Feed and Pet Supplies; Ominia Inc., a cotton manufacturing company; Roadtex Transportation Corporation, which distributes temperature-sensitive products; Stryker Sustainability Solutions, which researches, develops, and produces medical technology; and, in the restaurant arena, Smokin’ Aces BBQ.
The Ruthvens has helped to establish Lakeland as one of the major distribution centers in Florida for products heading north, south, east and west and for trucking services that make major use of the Interstate 4 corridor from Tampa to Orlando. The company points out that more than nine million people live within a 100-mile radius of Lakeland.
Several of the company’s warehousing and manufacturing tenants are located in buildings along County Line Road, a north-south route that intersects with I-4 on the west side of Lakeland. Neighbors include the Publix Super Markets warehouse; a Save-A-Lot grocery warehouse; an O’Reilly Auto Parts distribution center and warehouse that opened in January 2014; and Florida’s very first Amazon Fulfillment Center, which started operations in August 2014.
“We’re in pretty good company,” Greg Ruthven says.
South of the Amazon Fulfillment Center and closer to Drane Field Road, The Ruthvens operates two adjacent facilities, the Ruthven Business Park and the Ruthven West Lakeland Industrial Park. That’s where the company is completing one of its newest projects: an innovative 50,400-square-foot “flex” center.
“It’s different than typical warehousing,” Ruthven says. “It’s shorter space with more air-conditioned space — more like wholesale. There’s more roadside exposure and it’s dressier up front.”
The center at 3150 County Line Road can be used for offices and showrooms in the front and dock-high warehousing in the back. “It’s state of the art,” Ruthven says.
The Ruthvens management team consists of Joe P. Ruthven, founder and owner; his son, Greg Ruthven, president; Joe L. Ruthven, operations manager; and Matt Ruthven, leasing specialist.
The family likes to say that “At The Ruthvens, we build more than warehouses; we build relationships.”
“From day one, we have nurtured our relationships with clients, vendors, contractors, associates, the government, and the business community,” according to a statement on the company website, www.ruthvens.com. “We are grateful for these long-term associations and consider them an integral part of our success.”