In advance of Labor Day, here are three companies that are expanding Philadelphia-area operations:
Lumber Liquidators, a publicly traded company in Toano, Va., is scouting sites for a store in Montgomery County. The company has stores in Northeast Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, and 200 other U.S. locations, and is adding "40 to 45" stores a year, says Brandon Anapol of Metro Commercial Real Estate's Mount Laurel office. Metro Commercial represents Lumber Liquidators in the eastern U.S.
Like Home Depot and Lowe's, Liquidators is "continuing to expand in the downturn, driven by the fact people can't [afford to] move or sell their homes, so they're fixing them," Anapol told me.
Domtar Paper Co. of Montreal has traded its 110,000-square-foot warehouse at 1050 Wheeler Way, Langhorne, in the Bucks County Business Park, for
a 300,000-square-foot facility at 16 East Cabot, also in Langhorne, according to real estate brokers.
Domtar, buoyed by Chinese demand for Canadian wood and fuel, has been expanding with U.S. acquisitions. Domtar employed about 60 at the smaller site. Company officials in the United States and Canada had no comment on staffing plans.
Domtar's old location in the Bucks County Business Park has been purchased by Eastern AutoParts Warehouse for $3.8 million, according to Roddy Inc., which advised AutoParts. Binswanger Management Corp. represented Domtar.
People "can't afford new cars, so they're driving their old cars longer," AutoParts boss Stephen Thorne told me. "Brake pads and the stuff that wears out, that's what we sell. So we're OK with that."
AutoParts, which Thorne started in 1989, operates 16 smaller centers in the area and more than 200 delivery vehicles stocking local Sears, Meineke, Firestone, Pep Boys, Midas, and Tire Plus shops, car dealers, corporate fleets, and independent auto-repair businesses. Thorne credits "aggressive pricing, marketing, service, and inventory" for his growth. "Win the guy on service, and he'll be loyal," Thorne says.
AutoParts will keep its old 48,000-square-foot building (once Eagle Ron Jaworski's Gold's Gym) on 12 acres at 355 S. Flowers Mill Rd., Langhorne, using half as its headquarters and import warehouse and leasing the other half through Roddy.
Comcast Corp. customers who sued the Philadelphia cable company in 2003, alleging it won an illegal "monopoly" in Philadelphia and other markets when it bought the former Lenfest and AT&T cable operations, among others, have "demonstrated that this case can proceed as a class action," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia ruled last week.
Comcast lawyer Michael S. Shuster of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman L.L.P., did not respond to requests for comment.
The Comcast customers want money, not an AT&T-style breakup. Their lawyer, Barry Barnett of Texas-based Susman Godfrey L.L.P., told me experts for his clients estimated damages at $876 million just for Philadelphia- area Comcast customers in 2009, and similar complaints are pending for Comcast customers in Boston and Chicago.
A federal judge in Philadelphia last week rejected a complaint that the owner of Steak-umm, the frozen sandwich-steak brand, had brought against Steak'em Up, a South Philly cheesesteak shop. Steak-umm's complaint said that its brand had been infringed by the name Steak'em Up or that the Philly shop had created "unfair competition" with its name.
Judge Lawrence Stengel found in favor of Steak'em Up owner Michael Lane, who opened his shop at 11th and Shunk Streets and chose its comic-book theme, advertising the brand with a drawing of "an old-time cartoon gangster holding a hoagie as if it were a gun."
According to the judge's report, Steak-umm founder Gene Gagliardi saw Steak'em Up's advertisements and alerted Steak-umm's new owner, Quaker Maid, of Shillington, Pa. Quaker Maid boss Sergei Szortyka then sued to make the shop change its name.
Stengel ruled that Szortyka's own testimony showed "Steak-umm has suffered no actual harm," so damages and fees "are not appropriate." Jill Schmidt, spokeswoman for Quaker Maid, declined to comment.