MAJOR GROWTH IN STORE FOR HUCK FINN'S ALBANY RETAILER PREPARES TO TRIPLE ITS SIZE AND ANCHOR NEW DISCOUNT MARKETPLACE

ALAN D. ABBEY Business writer
Section: BUSINESS,  Page: C8

Date: Thursday, January 12, 1995

ALBANY Huck Finn's Warehouse Inc. plans to triple the size of its store and set up a discount marketplace in an empty 250,000-square-foot warehouse near the North Albany waterfront. The $1.4 million project, about a year in the making, is set to open in late March in a former Montgomery Ward warehouse on Erie Boulevard.


Once it is filled with Huck Finn's and other vendors, the marketplace would be the largest under one roof in the Capital Region, Huck Finn's chairman Ed Sperber of Menands said Wednesday at a news conference in the company's new location, now an empty warehouse.


``We didn't want to be a look-alike and join the now-high-overhead folks out there,'' Sperber said in reference to suburban malls and warehouse stores. Sperber's family-owned business has been active on the Albany retail scene since 1951.


Huck Finn President Jeffrey P. Sperber said the project is the result of several years of planning to expand. He praised Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings for helping the company find and develop a space within the city limits.


The city is planning to finance $250,000 of the project through the Albany Local Development Corp. City officials also are helping the company apply for $250,000 in federal financing. Huck Finn's is seeking $500,000 in bank loans and plans to invest $400,000 of its own.


Jennings said at the news conference that the Sperbers ``have made a commitment to the city of Albany. Any economic development that takes place in Albany is going to benefit all of us.''


Jeffrey Sperber said retailing trends indicate development by the turn of the century will once again be in downtowns, inner cities and urban industrial districts and will turn away from suburban sprawl. He said he wanted his family's company to be ahead of that curve, not behind it.


In the last few years, numerous warehouse-type and so-called ``category killer'' discount stores led by Wal-Mart have located in Capital Region suburbs.


The new Huck Finn's plans to carry expanded lines of the discount furniture and other products now in its existing 40,000-square-foot outlet on Tivoli Street, also in the North Albany industrial district.


The company plans to more than triple its own operations to 130,000 square feet with the goal of also tripling its revenues, which currently are from $4 million to $5 million, chief financial officer Reid H. Sperber said. The Tivoli Street location will be closed soon before the new store, to be called Huck Finn's Warehouse and More, opens.


Huck Finn's plans to sublease the remaining space in the warehouse to other discount retailers. Bilinski Sausage Manufacturing Co. of Cohoes is the first tenant committed to the new marketplace.


Reid Sperber said the company has not determined exactly what types of tenants it wants, but said any firm that subleases space would have to operate with a discount or warehouse approach.


Huck Finn's goal is to turn the building into an entertaining marketplace similar to that at Boston's Faneuil Hall.


The warehouse, which is visible from Interstate 787, will be painted with a yellow stripe. To attract shoppers, a figure of company symbol Huck Finn visible from the highway is to be seated atop a water tank on the 12-acre property.


Reid Sperber said the company has taken a 10-year master lease with a purchase option on the building, which is owned by Brookford Corp. of Syracuse. The building, which started life as a paper mill, had been a warehouse for Montgomery Ward for the last 20 years. Ward pulled its last items out of the building more than a year ago.