ULBRICH'S EMERGES FROM BANKRUPTCY WITH NEW NAME; FIRM TO OPERATE AS OFFICE PLUS WITH DISCOUNT PRICES, WAREHOUSE ATMOSPHERE - The Buffalo News

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ULBRICH'S EMERGES FROM BANKRUPTCY WITH NEW NAME; FIRM TO OPERATE AS OFFICE PLUS WITH DISCOUNT PRICES, WAREHOUSE ATMOSPHERE

Ulbrich's, a 119-year-old book, stationery and office-supply store, will be renamed Office Plus Inc. as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan.

Richard C. Paul, Ulbrich's president, said Office Plus will be a "micro superstore" selling office products in a warehouse atmosphere, discounting up to 70 percent.

Ulbrich's, at 446 Main St., will be converted to Office Plus in mid-January. Two stores are scheduled to open within the next year he said.

Office Plus, made up of two undisclosed investors, was allowed to purchase Ulbrich's during bankruptcy proceeding last month, said Paul, who holds an equity interest in Office Plus and will stay on to run the stores. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Paul said Ulbrich's was able to exit bankruptcy by convincing creditors and investors that it can change its image, and appeal to a different shopper.

"They're two totally different operations," Paul said of Ulbrich's and Office Plus. "Ulbrich's was a card and bookstore, not a discount operation. It was upscale and catered to a different clientele. The market has changed. Office Plus is now a deep-discount operation."

Office Plus will sell office furniture, graphic arts, drafting and engineering supplies and general office supplies.

It also will have a telemarketing arm selling supplies to small businesses. A smaller portion of its downtown merchandise space will be devoted to books and cards, Paul said.

"A lot of a stores' identity is based on perception," he said. "As a consumer walks through the front door, they will be welcomed by an image of a mass merchandiser."

The 7,000-square-foot downtown store and the 5,000-square-foot suburban stores will hold bulk displays, metal shelves and bare walls and floors. "The perception is you can save money here," Paul said. He would not disclose the location of the suburban stores.

The mass merchandiser strategy was attempted under the Ulbrich's name. The company filed for court protection in June 1989, listing assets of $3.1 million and liabilities of $2.9 million to 383 creditors. The filing was brought on in part because customers who had known Ulbrich's as a book and stationery store did not respond to management's attempt to broaden its product line to include office supplies, Paul said.

Additionally, Ulbrich's expansion had put it in competition with itself in some regions, market observers said.

Ulbrich's peak of 13 stores, $12 million in sales and 220 employees has eroded to one Main Street store with 10 employees.

Once Office Plus is up and running, Paul said, the three stores will have a total of 30 workers with 13 at the Main Street store. Office Plus will call back Ulbrich's employees and train them at the downtown store, he said.

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