The constant “pop” sound echoing across the 3-acre compound of Pal-King Inc. on Jacksonville’s Northside is the sound of money and shipping stability.
The company founded in 1977 is producing about 5,000 wooden pallets each day, as they’re in high demand. They’re used to provide easy access to forklifts for many companies in North Florida and South Georgia that need to ship their goods around the country and overseas. About 15 to 20 percent of its pallets are manufactured for custom orders, but most being assembled with that “pop” sound generated by nail guns are “remanufactured” from pallets previously used for shipping and merchandise storage.
“Manufacturing and distribution companies in the surrounding area, some of those will have a surplus of pallets,” said Dan Quasnick, who along with his wife, Bonnie, co-owns Pal-King on Old Kings Road just east of Interstate 295. “We bring them [pallets] to our facility, offload them, process them through our builders and sorters, repair and regrade them … and then resell them to other manufacturing and distribution companies.”
Towers of the wooden pallets — which have dimensions of about 48 by 40 inches and stand 6 inches high each — are stacked about 20 feet up and dot the Pal-King property outside the main production facility that has 21 workers. There’s a production line assembly area where workers use nail guns to assemble the pallets.
And nothing goes to waste. Pallets that can’t be remanufactured are broken down and thrown into a processing facility that reduces the material to wood chips that are sold. Within the machine that automatically tears the wood into chips is a magnet that captures the nails and staples used to hold the pallets together. The nails and staples are eventually separated from the wood and are then sold for scrap metal.
Pal-King also has a similar facility in White Springs that generates another 3,000 pallets per day. Between pallet production and wood chip processing, Dan Quasnick said the company generates about $7.5 million in revenue each year. The pallets themselves are valued between $3 and $12.50 each, depending on the condition, and there are bulk rates for companies that order hundreds or thousands of the shipping platforms.
Pal-King isn’t Jacksonville’s only pallet manufacturing business in the area. There are about a half-dozen similar businesses in the area, and Dan Quasnick said his is a “medium-to-large” pallet manufacturer.
But Pal-King is one of the oldest after being established nearly 40 years ago by the late R.J. “Bob” Quasnick, Dan’s father.
Dan Quasnick was working at the business as soon it opened and left for other pursuits for two decades before returning in 2005.
He’s not the only worker with longtime connections. Sonya Williams, the administrative assistant, has worked there for 29 years and a few others have been with the business for more than a decade.
Dan Quasnick’s brothers, Larry and Rob, worked at the business from its opening until 2005 when they retired upon Dan’s return. Bonnie Quasnick has worked there since 2003.
Shipping pallets seem like an innocuous part of most people’s daily lives, Bonnie Quasnick said. They’re not really noticeable to most people when they see something being shipped, and few ever even think about their role in logistics when they go to the store to buy something.
But she’s witnessed many pallets come into her business that have been abused and in a state of disrepair and she said she’s reminded that modern shipping and getting goods to people’s homes would be a lot more complicated without the devices that can hold up to 2,000 pounds each.
“Everything would have to be floor-loaded,” Bonnie Quasnick said, meaning that each merchandise container would be placed on the floor of a truck or ship itself and would create greater difficulty for stacking goods.
“Without the pallet, [a] man has to move 50 to 100 cases [of merchandise] at a time,” Dan Quasnick said.
“If you don’t have your product on a pallet then you’ve got a person loading it by hand and unloading it on the other hand versus a forklift that will go inside a truck, pick up the pallet with all the product on it and bring it out,” Bonnie Quasnick said.
The smell of wood, which is mostly pine and other softer woods used for pallet manufacturing, permeates the Pal-King grounds. The business has developed into a smooth-running machine where forklifts run back and forth between pallet stacks and workers to quickly stack the mounting pallets rolling off the production line. The forklifts move the pallets into stacks in the open yard as soon as they roll off the production line.
Dan Quasnick said it is an efficient operation now. But he said it wasn’t always so when his father started the business.
“In the ’70s when we started, much of what we have today had to be created by men like my father because it was a beginning industry,” Dan Quasnick said. “Machinery, tooling, ways to dismantle pallets all had to be done by hand in the days of my father.
“When I was first building a pallet for my father it was with a 20-ounce hammer and a 3½-inch nail. I had a Popeye right arm back then,” Dan Quasnick said with a laugh. “Now we use nail guns with 120 pounds of air pressure that creates that ‘pop’ [sound] and then they’re done.”
There are over 8,000 pallet manufacturers in the United States. Bonnie Quasnick said Pal-King has seen about a 2 percent increase in demand for pallets in the past year.
“That’s going to be driven by manufacturers coming into Jacksonville,” Dan Quasnick said. “The increase in our business is driven by the produce industry’s growth in North Florida and South Georgia along with new manufacturing in Jacksonville.”
Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098