Clearing the first hurdle Tuesday, a permit that would allow for the expansion of one of the district’s long-standing businesses made it through the Planning and Environmental Protection Committee and on to the full Senate for a final vote.
It took a few hours for the permit to be approved—not because the request was lengthy, but because senators spent most of the morning delving into the nuts and bolts of the Sea Chest’s business.
At the end, however, there seemed to be a general consensus that the St. Thomas-based hardware store was different from its bigger competitors because it stressed customer service.
The permit allows Sea Chest, which was founded in 1948, to tear down and remove its outside storage and office trailers so it can expand the store and warehouse. Testifying during Tuesday’s meeting, store manager Craig Kirchoff said that while the facility would only be expanded by 8,400 square feet, the extra height would make all the difference in terms of storage.
Kirchoff, whose family opened the store on St. Thomas in 1948, said both the new and old building would also be retrofitted to make the business more energy efficient, including redoing the electrical wiring, replacing the air conditioning units, installing more efficient insulation and putting in skylights.
Also approved Tuesday was Sea Chest’s lease agreement, allowing the store to continue to occupy 42,253 square feet of submerged lands in Crown Bay. The lease is for 20 years, at an annual rate of $65,000.
This lease agreement and permit would allow Sea Chest to get the bank financing needed to amortize its investment of $1.5 to $1.8 million for the construction, energy retrofitting, merchandizing and inventory expansion.
Sea Chest was sold to MSI Building Supplies in 1996, with the company now operating under the umbrella agency Impex Trading International.
Voting in favor of approving the lease and permit and sending it onto the full Senate for final approval were Sens. Craig W. Barshinger, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Louis P. Hill, Neville James, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Ronald Russell and Patrick Simeon Sprauve.