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UNILAND BUYS FORMER SERVICE MERCHANDISE STORE IN AMHERST

Uniland Development Corp. purchased the vacant Service Merchandise store on Maple Road in Amherst for $2.6 million, officials said Monday.

Michael Montante, a Uniland executive, confirmed that the Amherst-based developer has added the 50,000-square-foot building to its portfolio. A big factor in the decision to buy the recently vacated building was its location, according to Montante. "It's adjacent to the Maple Ridge Plaza, which we own, so it's a natural fit for what we're already doing at that site," Montante said.

Service Merchandise, a national catalog showroom retailer, closed its Amherst store this spring as part of a corporate bankruptcy down-sizing effort. The troubled Tennessee company filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in early March, indicating it would close as many as 134 of its then-200 stores.

Since closing dozens of locations, Service Merchandise has been steadily selling the non-operating stores to raise capital as part of the effort to shore up its bottom line.

He expects to have little trouble finding another retailer to take over the high-profile Maple Road structure, Montante said.

"We expect pretty good demand for what is a fairly unique opportunity in a higher-end plaza. We're seeking a destination type, national retailer, someone of the caliber of a Media Play or Barnes & Noble," Montante added.

The adjoining Maple Ridge Plaza includes such tenants as Office Max, the Dakota Grill, LensCrafters and the Maple Ridge 8 cinemas.

Originally built by Best Products, a now-defunct catalog showroom chain, the vacant store was home to a Joseph B. Dahlkemper Co. store for a few years, until Dahlkemper was bought out by Service Merchandise, which operated out of the Maple Road location from 1992 through the spring of 1999.

Despite the "revolving door" of tenants the site has housed, "we are confident we'll sign a tenant that will become an anchor for the plaza," Montante said.

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