New owner promises jobs and business at former Lenox plant

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Jimmy DiNatale, new owner of old Lenox site on Tilton Road in Galloway. GALLOWAY– Jimmy DiNatale stands in the middle of the cavernous building of the old Lenox china manufacturing plant and can see he has a lot of work ahead of him.

All around him are signs of the challenges. Walls with black mold, asbestos that is being torn out and removed, and one odd sight: a small tree growing through the tiles. 

“We’ve got some great landscaping in here,” joked Randy Schechter, one of DiNatale’s business associates of Urban Retail Solutions, a New York City-based company.
As difficult as it may seem, DiNatale insists he is going ahead with the project to transform the aging building, abandoned nine years ago.

“I have to show everyone I mean business,” DiNatale said of his intent to gain company interest in renting space in the 450,000-square foot building.

DiNatale, a Linwood resident and the owner of RCC1 LLC, gave The Current a tour on July 24, offering the first public glimpse inside the building since it closed in 2005. 

It seems a time portal to the past. The receptionist desk that once was a hub of activity now sits crumbling.

Empty hallways that used to be thoroughfares to many offices are now littered with debris. An exit sign lies on the floor in one office. Dated, musty drapery still hangs in another.

Much of the building is an open expanse, as crews knock down walls and prepare the building for new life, with the prospect of more than 450 jobs created if all of DiNatale’s plans come to fruition.

“This is a big part of Galloway,” Galloway Mayor Don Purdy said recently. “I am glad they [DiNatale and his crew] are getting cooperation from town hall.”

Purdy said offices should be up and running by January 2015. He also commented on work being done by DiNatale, including cleaning up debris and landscaping. 

DiNatale purchased the industrial landmark in June for $2.2 million. The 56-acre site is split into three separate properties.

The building lot, located on Tilton Road, is 40 acres with parking and improvements with the rail spur. The second lot is 7.7 acres and remains vacant. The third lot, 8.5 acres, is contaminated. Groundwater contamination from lead and trichloroethylene dating to Lenox’s manufacturing days is being cleaned up by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“We are working with the DEP on the water situation. The water samples are coming back good. All of the environmental issues are being taken care of,” DiNatale said, adding that this includes asbestos abatement.

After potential buyers came and went, the property sat vacant until BTR Tilton purchased the tract. But a project to breathe life into the fading landmark never came to light, and the property further decayed until DiNatale stepped in. He is in the process of lining up tenants. One major company is expected to be Barrette Outdoor Living, a vinyl fence and railing company out of Ohio. 

DiNatale said he is not certain who will move into the building, but there are several companies that have expressed interest that he would not divulge just yet. He is sure of one thing: there will be quite a few construction jobs for the county’s residents.

At the back of the property, his enthusiasm was evident as he showed off the rail line, which he hopes to use for importing and exporting products more economically than by truck or other vehicle.

“This is the perfect picture of why I’m doing what I’m doing,” DiNatale said, standing on the tracks and surveying the rotted railroad ties that need to be replaced. “It wasn’t used. Nature took its course.”

As DiNatale spoke he smiled. A leftover Lenox sign served as a backdrop and was a reminder of what once was.

“We have a lot to do before we know what we have,” DiNatale said. “This won’t be another Lenox, but it will be something good.”

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