Kevin Pitcock is about as happy a buyer of real estate as you can find in Ulster County these days. Last month he closed on a 133-acre parcel with a 205,000-square-foot industrial building behind the plaza opposite the northbound Thruway entrance in Saugerties. The four-acre structure, formerly occupied by a bankrupt unit of Vertis Holdings, Inc., is on Tomsons Road close to the food nexus consisting of McDonald’s, the Starway Café, Plaza Pizza and Subway.
Because of the huge building’s nearness to the Thruway and the ready availability of infrastructure and robust utility service, Pitcock several years ago identified the property as having high value for his purposes. He also recognized its potential value to tenants for manufacturing, warehousing and offices uses. This past month, Pitcock has been busy arranging utility services and occupancy plans for the property, now his.
Pitcock, founder and CEO of Peak Trading Corp., a warehouse distribution and construction supply company on Basin Road in West Hurley, gets high marks for tenacity. He detected a complementarity between the location and his other business interests, and he was willing to act on his beliefs. He perceived value in it that others did not recognize or were unable to commit to.
The former Vertis Printing subsidiary that had operated in Saugerties had shed assets through multiple bankruptcy proceedings. In 2011 the property had ended up at auction in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware. For his pursuit at that time, Pitcock had to hire expensive but experienced lawyers such as those Vertis employed.
Alas, at that time a last-minute competitor to Pitcock, a Chinese investor from Los Angeles, emerged at the last minute to outbid the Ulster County man in bankruptcy court. The next day, the new owner flipped the property to another Chinese investor from Los Angeles.
That wasn’t the end of the matter, however. Intermittent negotiations over price and terms between Pitcock and the final purchaser ensued. Terms were agreed upon in April 2015. Subsequently, agents for the seller tested Pitcock by mentioning an unidentified alternative bidder who might pay more. Pitcock stood firm, His own bid was his final one. After a last flurry of indecision, the owner agreed to sell to Pitcock at the agreed-upon price.
You don’t get much more local in Ulster County than Kevin Pitcock, a graduate of Kingston High School and Siena College. He started his main business, Peak Trading Corp., the day after he returned from his honeymoon. Since he’s part of Kingston’s Feeney clan, it should come as no surprise that his fledgling business was first located in one of the Quonset huts at the Feeney boatyard on Abeel Street.
In his twenties, Pitcock learned the ropes of the business world at Fehr Brothers in Saugerties. Meanwhile he began to evolve Peak Trading, which today imports and distributes a wide line of stuff: ropes, cables, chain, fittings, rigging equipment, lifting products, climbing gear, tie-down equipment, hand tools and related products. In-house, Peak manufactures a number of assemblies and does custom work. Northern Sling and Industrial Supply is his main retail store. He also owns Sheldon Hill Forestry in West Shokan, which distributes arborist, logging and forestry supplies, much if it locally and on the web.
Peak Trading continues to grow its formidable e-commerce business. “We’re very good at the back end,” Pitcock explains. “We leverage technology at every turn.”
The head of this 25-person, three-company enterprise says that for him creating a great organization is even more important than what the business does. “We really want to create opportunities for people.”
Pitcock, whose existing businesses will occupy a quarter of the vast space he just bought, will be looking for warehousing, manufacturing and office users to lease the rest of it. Space will be offered, he wrote in his original press release announcing the purchase, at “reasonable lease rates.” His ultimate goal, he wrote, was “to leverage the power of technology to create a state-of-the-art facility for small business to thrive.” He claims the type of space available in the former Vertis building “doesn’t exist elsewhere in Ulster County.”
Being a few hundred feet from a Thruway entrance is one locational advantage. Another is that the Thruway hosts fiber-optic cable whose costs are borne by its users (with franchise taxes bringing the state government two million dollars a year). Companies of all sizes with e-commerce businesses could benefit from the site.
In addition, Pitcock thinks the site would make a great location for warehouse or distribution space for one of the digital behemoths that compete for customers on the basis of speed of delivery and cost with brick-and-mortar stores. He’s not shy about approaching these companies for that purpose.
Because of its location near utility substations, Pitcock also thinks large portions of the land would be ideal for a solar farm, where photovoltaic modules would convert light directly to electricity.
Town supervisor Greg Helsmoortel thinks Peak Trading fits in well with the kinds of businesses Saugerties has been attracting. In turn, Pitcock has expressed appreciation for the town’s leadership. Conversations with the town government have been comfortable. So have contacts with other levels of government, it appears.
Pitcock also singled out Todd Rubino from Riverside Bank “for his pragmatic common-sense approach to commercial lending.”
So far, Kevin Pitcock has grown his business through internal financing. He’s now taken a giant but logical step toward enlarging his activities.
Will he succeed? Ultimately, the marketplace will answer that question.