Holiday Housewares Inc. has reached a tentative agreement to acquire the vacant Leominster, Mass., plant formerly occupied by the defunct Tucker Housewares Inc.
The building, which is 566,000 square feet and the largest industrial property in Leominster, has been on the market since Tucker's parent, Zeta Consumer Products Corp., underwent Chapter 11 bankruptcy liquidation proceedings in April 2000.
``Basically, we are making a purchase of real estate to support our growth,'' said Russell H. Brillon, vice president of finance at Holiday Housewares.
The injection molder produces a variety of products, including food- and waste-storage items. Its customers include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Kmart Corp. and Target Corp.
Patience seems to be the reward for Holiday. In the fall, the company lost an effort to buy the building through the bankruptcy court. The highest bidder - an investment group interested in subdividing the property - eventually decided not to make the purchase.
Holiday officials entered another bid, which the court accepted. Terms were not disclosed.
Brillon said that the company is in due diligence and, ``assuming there are no surprises, it should be completed by month's end.''
If the deal goes through, Brillon said some refinements will be made, and the plant will be in operation as soon as possible. The private company does not disclose its sales, number of employees or details about its machinery.
Holiday operates out of a 120,000-square-foot plant in Leominster and has warehouse space scattered around the Leominster vicinity. The Tucker plant will allow Holiday to consolidate its operations in one main facility.
Holiday's owners include President John R. Clementi, who also is an owner of Plastican Inc., in Leominster.
``Christmas [production] is already done, but this prepares us for our growth strategy within the housewares industry. The whole purpose is to make us more efficient and better serve our customers,'' Brillon said.
Zeta Consumer Products Corp. of Little Falls, N.J., bought Tucker Housewares from Mobil Chemical Co. in 1996. The April 2000 bankruptcy put 800 workers out of work at four plants - Leominster; Arlington, Texas; Macomb, Ill.; and Kingman, Ariz.
This deal marks a big turnaround for Leominster, which lost two housewares manufacturers in 2000. A facility vacated in December by Home Products International Inc. was acquired in June 2001 by Cardinal Comb & Brush Manufacturing Corp.
Trevor M. Beauregard, Leominster's economic development coordinator, said the purchase will take a prime piece of real estate off the local market, but as Holiday consolidates, it will open up smaller buildings for other companies.
``Things are looking up for the plastic industry. It is a positive sign to see local companies absorb valuable real estate. It is a telltale sign that the plastic industry is not suffering as much as you might think,'' Beauregard said.
The housewares business is extremely competitive, according to David L. McKeehan, president of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce.
``Because of the extraordinary consolidation by the major retailers, you're either in or out,'' he said.
The U.S. housewares industry grew about 6 percent from 1998-99, to about $66.7 billion, according to the International Housewares Association in Rosemont, Ill. No statistics are available yet for 2000, according to a group spokeswoman.