The best business deals are those that start out with two parties each needing what the other can offer. Jim Hyland, whose firm The Farm Bridge presently employs about 50 people in the TechCity facility in the Town of Ulster, intends to move soon. He needs about 40,000 square feet of space for his food processing business. Jim Hull, owner of 36 malls in the nation, has that much space — and more — available at the Hudson Valley Mall three minutes away across Route 9W.
Will the two get together? They’re working on it.
In an interview during his visit to Kingston two weeks ago, Hull raised the prospect of “farm-to-table-related stuff” as possible tenants at the Town of Ulster mall. He was looking for more than just food processing, he emphasized. He was looking to build food-related commercial and retail activity, too.
At the same time, Hull exulted about the opening of the HealthQuest medical complex on February 4 at the mall in part of a space formerly occupied by the departed Macy’s anchor store. The structure, carved out into a separate building at the south end of the mall, represented “a tremendous investment” whose presence was positive for the mall, Hull said. The facility will provide primary care, develop ambulatory care, and train new physicians there. Twenty million dollars was spent transforming the former big-box store into a modern multispecialty medical center with urgent care, neurology, radiology and lab services. Hudson River Health Care (HRHCare) will be providing on-site services: primary care, women’s health, behavioral health, nutrition services, and care coordination.
The cavernous former JC Penney store still stands empty. Hull confided that he had a prospect for that big-box space. What were the odds of landing that tenant? “Fifty-fifty,” replied Hull. “Maybe sixty-forty.”
And then there’s the Sears space, added along with other stores and a new food court to the east side of the Hudson Valley Mall in a 1989 expansion. Sears closed the store in April 2018. That’s the building Hull and Hyland have been negotiating about as the new home of The Farm Bridge. With four loading spaces and considerable parking nearby, the former Sears store might fit his needs. It’s also next to the Rock Grill Restaurant and Bar and the food court, which at present has only two tenants, Savona’s Plaza Pizza and the East Wok. A modest cluster of related businesses offering “farm-to-table-related stuff” might attract an audience. That would make Hull happy.
The storefronts in the corridor linking the food court of the mall to the main internal north-south walkway are too few to attract much pedestrian traffic. Hull may have in mind a more varied area of food and beverage enterprises looking outward to a parking lot common to them, to the NCG Cinema and to the facility projected to be occupied by The Farm Bridge in the former Sears space. Like the HealthQuest complex, The Farm Bridge won’t need to be oriented as much toward the mall as retail operations would need to be.
The Hudson Valley Mall may be taking on more of the “open” character of the standalone big-box stores, strip malls and independent service businesses typical of the Ulster Avenue corridor.
Owner of a small farm on Huguenot Street in New Paltz, Winter Sun Farms, Jim Hyland became involved more than a decade ago with supplying high-quality frozen and preserved produce all winter long. The Farm Bridge (formerly Farm to Table Co-packers), of which Hyland is the founder and CEO, bills itself on its website as “the Hudson Valley’s single most significant link between regional farmers and the diversified consumers that wish to support them.” The Farm Bridge offers expertise and food-production services to local farms and food entrepreneurs.
A move to the Hudson Valley Mall on the right terms is attractive to Hyland for several reasons. It would be convenient for his employees, whom he holds on high regard and depends upon. He says he’s committed to a Kingston location, and he’s found that there aren’t that many spaces available of the kind The Farm Bridge is seeking. And there may be business opportunities based on synergy with food-related retailers.
Hyland said he had received encouragement from all levels of government. Empire State Development has been supportive. Ulster County officials were aware of the situation. And Ulster town supervisor Jim Quigley had a well-developed understanding of the local government’s role and responsibilities.
Until last month, TechCity also leased space to Hudson Valley Harvest (HVH), a well-capitalized and ambitious regional food distributor affiliated with about 70 local farms which services many hundreds of outlets in the New York metropolitan consolidated area. That enterprise, which also makes a few products under its own brand, moved to a facility in Germantown owned by a related company, Angello’s Distributing, in December.
“HVH moved from its TechCity space to Germantown simply because the space was larger and could accommodate its growth,” explained Michael Waterman, president of Canopy Holding, which owns HVH. “We love Ulster County, which has been great for HVH, and we are still pursuing ways to keep business there, perhaps moving back there in the future. But given the growth we are experiencing, we needed a larger facility and our best near-term option was in Germantown.”
HRH and Hyland’s The Farm Bridge are both in the food business. Hyland thinks of the two independent entities, which deal with many of the same local growers, as “sister companies.” “They’re in the distribution end and we’re in the manufacturing end,” he explained.
Thanks in large part to the large number of local farmers in the Hudson River Harvest and The Farm Bridge networks, Kingston has in the past decade become a significant Hudson Valley center for the manufacturing and distribution of farm products. Growing is a local business that has considerable growth potential.