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February 24. 2014 5:32PM

Fifth-generation Nashua firm seeks to reinvent itself after loss of liquor contract

NASHUA — With 80 percent of its warehouse space up for lease, and its 120-person workforce reduced to 20, Law Warehouses and Motor Freight is re-branding itself as Law Logistics in the hope of rebuilding after the loss of its longtime contract with the New Hampshire Liquor Commission.

It’s been more than three months since the contract to store and deliver product for the NHLC was taken over by Exel, Inc., of Westerville, Ohio, a subsidiary of the German delivery giant DHL Express.

While Exel continues to iron out the kinks in the transfer of business from Law warehouses in Nashua to the new Exel warehouse in Bow, Brian Law is trying to carve out a new future for the company founded by his great-great grandfather in 1882 with a single horse and buggy in downtown Nashua.

Although the NHLC was by far the company’s largest customer, it was not its only customer, Law said. The company, now in its fifth generation of family ownership, is the U.S. distribution center for Asolo hiking boots.

Law manages inventory for Hitchiner Manufacturing, based in Milford, and for a well-known manufacturer of accessories for action sports. The railroad tracks that run through Law’s 30-acre site — bordered by Route 101A, the Nashua airport and Charron Avenue — regularly deliver forestry products for distribution by truck.

“We’re certainly still active in the warehousing and trucking business, and looking to grow that business,” Law said, “but we have extra space now, so we’re putting that out on the market to rent.”

The Law complex includes a 110,000-square-foot office building at 27 Airport Road; a 131,000-square-foot building at 30 Airport Road; 45,000 square feet at 17 Tanguay Ave.; a 94,000-square-foot site at 375 W. Hollis St.; and a smaller site at 15 Charron Ave.

The company is currently operating out of 30 Airport Road.

The properties are available for rent, but not for sale. “We’re not interested in selling,” said Law. “The last thing we want is to have the site become a big-box location. We would rather stay in business here, leasing what we don’t need for now.”

The sprawling complex of office and warehouse buildings is ideal for manufacturing startups that might want to take advantage of Law’s expertise in logistics, its fleet of trucks and nearby railroad tracks, according to Law.

“We have a real opportunity, with New Hampshire becoming a hotbed for startup operations,” he said. “We can provide distribution and customer service, even some finance and IT support. Startups never know how fast they’re going to grow, so it doesn’t make sense for them to invest in brick and mortar, trucks and warehouses, when they can utilize our resources and our expertise on a variable-cost basis.”

In addition to leasing most of its warehouse and office space, the company is also in the process of reducing its fleet from 20 tractors and 60 trailers to 10 tractors and 20 trailers. The company was dispatching 20 trucks a day, and is now down to three to seven per day.

Law still has a part to play in the distribution of wine throughout the state. Its clients include many Hannaford locations, all Market Basket stores, Shaws, BJ’s, Costco and Sams Clubs, which pay Law to deliver product from the Exel warehouse to the retail locations.

“We’re committed to remaining in the warehouse and trucking business,” Law said. “We feel we have excellent people and excellent systems. It’s a very viable business for us.”

The company’s lawsuit against the NHLC, claiming violations of the state’s competitive bidding statutes, is scheduled for a jury trial in May.

dsolomon@unionleader.com



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