Retailer to mark first anniversary under new ownership


Sporting goods retailer Herb Philipson’s will mark its first year under Guy Viti’s ownership Thursday, as it continues to restructure under Chapter 11.

Viti, a long-time Herb’s employee, purchased the company
from the Philipson family in March 2018 and held a “grand opening” of the nine store chain in August.

When he sold Herb’s to Viti in 2018, Gary Philipson said the company employed “340-plus” across its nine stores.

As of January, Viti estimated he had 250 employees in his six remaining stores.

In October, the retailer filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11, and it has since shuttered the company’s locations in Newark, Oswego, and most recently DeWitt.

“This past year has been one of many changes, but for the better,” Viti contended in a statement Monday.

“The current world of retail has been shaky nationwide, that’s no secret. We continue to focus on strengthening our foundation, growing our loyal team of employees, expanding our inventory and revamping our stores for a better shopping experience both online and in-store,” the new owner added.

The bankruptcy filing came after major lender Second Avenue Capital of Needham, Massachusetts pulled support in October.

Since then, Second Avenue has maintained in bankruptcy court that Herb’s is unlikely to right its finances, pointing to years of declining revenue and what it calls Viti’s “shocking inability to accurately project the operating performance of the business.”

For his part, Viti has flatly rejected that the company is in a death spiral and rejected the Second Avenue comments as posturing.

Holiday shoppers provided the retailer with a needed cash influx, Viti said in December, and the company “has not borrowed any money” since filing.

Additionally, the store closures and renegotiated leases on remaining stores have helped cull operating costs, Viti has said.

Herb Philipson started the company in downtown Rome in the summer of 1951.

It remained in the hands of the Philipson family until 2018, when Gary Philipson said “new energy” and a “fresh vision” were needed to lead the company into the future.

According to a release from the company, customers can celebrate the anniversary at the flagship location in Rome with cake and beverages from 9 to 10 a.m.

From Thursday through Sunday, the company will offer 20 percent off all goods at all locations, “with prizes and giveaways,” including a chance to win a kayak, tickets to Utica City Football Club or Utica Comets games, and more.


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