November 20, 2014
A ten acre plot of land, just down the road from Blue Mountain Brewery and a Martha Jefferson outpatient clinic, will soon be transformed into an 80,000-square-foot warehouse for Zenith Quest, an international importing and exporting business specializing in ammunition and firearms.
"We have the freedom to bear arms," said Hanri Kaya, who along with her husband, settled in Nelson County after immigrating from Turkey. Five kids and fifteen years later, the Kayas are hoping to expand their growing business. "If we are able to fill a niche in the market that brings something to the U.S. market...by all means we are going to do that."
Zenith Quest ammunition is already sold in Walmarts across the country, but with a federal firearms license, the company hopes to move into the business of importing firearms, starting with assault rifles.
"We are filling a niche with this because it's a roller lock delayed blow back," said Mike Farruggio, a former Charlottesville police officer who now works as Zenith Quest's firearms program manager. "The typical rifle you see in America has a rotating bolt that locks. This has a very different design...It's a very clean operating system, it's a little bit less complicated."
Zenith Quest weapons are manufactured by MKE, a privately-owned government entity in Turkey with a 500-year history of making firearms and ammunition.
"We are their sole representative in the whole of North America," Kaya said. "We are hoping to extend that partnership with them to bringing more ammunition and bringing firearms because their quality is extremely good."
According to MKE's website, the company serves the Turkish Armed Forces, along with exporting to defense industry markets in 40 countries around the world. A quick scan of the products offered by MKE show high-powered military weapons like rocket launchers, tank missiles, tank guns, and mortars.
Kaya said those products are something Zenith Quest consults on. "That would be what we consider direct sales, government-to-government," she said. "We wouldn't be bringing that into our own warehouse but that is between government-to-government entities and definitely a possibility."
Zenith Quest has the license to bid on U.S. government contracts. Two employees operate out of a Northern Virginia satellite office with the hopes of cultivating more relationships with the federal government. But, Kaya said their focus remains on the Nelson County warehouse, and plans to hire 30 new employees.
Farruggio said community members worried about having a warehouse full of ammunition and guns in their backyards don't need to be concerned.
"We take the responsibility of storing firearms before they are shipped very very seriously," Farruggio said. "Our space is hardened, I'll go no further than that, and it's alarmed and it's video taped. It's quite a system."
Zenith Quest is waiting on building approvals from the Nelson County Planning Commission to begin construction. The company hopes to break ground on the warehouse by the spring of 2015.