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Business in the Burbs

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Archive for November, 2008

Westchester seeks tax helpers


The Westchester County government is seeking 100 volunteers to offer a helping hand at tax time.

The volunteers will assist low- and moderate-income people in preparing tax returns or applying for federal and state earned income tax credits.

The credits, available for working people with low or moderate incomes, can add up to $6,512 to families earning less than $42,000. The size of the credit varies based on the income of the household and the number of children in the family.

“For tax season 2008, Westchester County helped 4,870 people obtain more than $4 million in tax refunds and credits, mainly through the effort of a group of volunteers who collectively put in hours as volunteers,” County Executive Andrew Spano said in a written statement. “For tax season 2009, we want to do even better.”

Training for volunteers starts in January. Under the program, volunteers donate time between Jan. 31 and April 15 at tax assistance sites in Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Ossining, White Plains or Peekskill. Volunteers interested in the program can call 866-914-EITC to register. They can also register online at www.westchestergov.com/eitc.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Friday, November 28th, 2008 at 2:40 pm |
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Scarsdale wine shop under new ownership


Vintology Wine & Spirits in Scarsdale is under new ownership. The wine store at 10 Palmer Ave. recently was purchased by Dean Morretta, who previously worked for a wine retailer for seven years and as a regional manager for a leading Bordeaux wine importer for seven years. Vintology Wine, previously known as Heathcote Corner Liquors, sells about 300 wines. The store has been in business for more than 50 years under various owners.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Friday, November 28th, 2008 at 1:46 pm |
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Senior group wins award


The Seniors Out Speaking on Medicare program in Westchester County recently was a recipient of the Award of Excellence in Older Volunteer Program Management. The award, presented by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the MetLife Foundation, recognizes organizations nationally for effective recruitment and engagement of volunteers age 50 and older.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Friday, November 28th, 2008 at 1:20 pm |
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Fitness center open in Rye Brook


Personal Training Institute recently opened at Rye Ridge Shopping Center in Rye Brook. The fitness center offers weight loss programs to clients, including 30-minute workouts on strength training machines.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Friday, November 28th, 2008 at 12:52 pm |
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Boutique opens in Rye


Olivier New York recently opened a boutique at 12 Purchase St. in Rye. Olivier produces more than 140 skin care products, including facial day and night cream, lip serum, body lotion, bath and shower products, baby oil, shaving kits and after-shave cream for men. The Olivier Soapery, founded in 1996, is based in New Brunswick, Canada.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Friday, November 28th, 2008 at 12:28 pm |
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Limousine company wins award


Leros Point to Point Limousine Service in Hawthorne recently was named the 2008 Large Operator of The Year by Limo Digest magazine. Leros competed against more than 20 other companies to win the award. Leros, which has four regional offices across the country, specializes in chauffeured services, corporate travel, meetings and events.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Friday, November 28th, 2008 at 10:55 am |
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Shoppers get an early start


Mark Peterson of Harrison stood in line in front of Kohl’s in Port Chester at 3:30 this morning hoping to get unbelievable bargains on toys for his young daughter.

His sister, Lindsay Peterson of New Rochelle, is a bargain hunter, too. But her primary reason for being in the line was tradition. “I think it’s just fun,” she said.

The holiday shopping season kicked off across the Lower Hudson Valley this morning with customers huddled in layers of clothing and clutching warm drinks outside clothing, electronics and toy stores. The day is known as “Black Friday” – ostensibly because it’s the day that retailers become profitable for the year.

Experts say retailers are being particularly generous with discounts this year as a way to boost sales in the midst of a world economic crisis and at a time when companies are cutting jobs and retirement portfolios are shrinking.

Mark Peterson said he waited in line early on Black Friday last year and was astounded by the low prices.

“The prices are insane,” he said. “I came last year and I said ‘I can’t afford not to come back.’”

About 50 people were in the line outside Kohl’s at 3:45 a.m. But by the time a manager placed a key in the front door and let people in, the line had swelled to more than 200.

The shoppers entered the store in an orderly manner – except for one woman who sauntered up to the front of the line, cutting dozens of people and drawing dirty looks from those she passed.

Posted by Allan Drury on Friday, November 28th, 2008 at 5:10 am |
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Spano calls for a 90-day freeze on foreclosures


Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano recently sent letters to 23 area banks asking them to voluntarily implement a 90-day freeze on future foreclosures as the housing slowdown worsens in the region.

Spano took the action with statistics showing that there were 2,431 foreclosure filings and judgments in Westchester during the last year, an increased of 58.7 percent over a year earlier.
In the letters, Spano said that the national housing crisis, the downturn on Wall Street and a troubled economy is hurting area families.

“I strongly urge your bank to take immediate action to help homeowners stay in their homes in Westchester County,” Spano said in his letter. “…Rising mortgage defaults only exacerbate the credit crisis and are in no one’s best interests, including the banking system.”

Spano said that sevearl banks on the national level, inlcuding Bank of America,  J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup, have announced programs to try to help modify problem mortgages. Each of those three banks has branches in the region.

Spano called for banks “to the fullest extent possible, negotiate agreements that will keep people in their homes.”

The state also has tried to slow the pace of foreclosures. In August, New York Gov. David Paterson signed legislation aimed at heading off new foreclosures against subprime borrowers whose credit is less than perfect. Among other things, it required lenders to notify borrowers at least 90 days before starting a proceeding, so both sides have time to work out problems before the need for legal action.

Gary Brown, county director of consumer protection, said that the state law had its limitations because it only addressed high-cost loans and not the conventional loans that also are having problems.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008 at 12:21 pm |
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Rockland task force to target mortgage fraud


As the housing market weakens and mortgage foreclosures rise in the Lower Hudson Valley, increasing numbers of con artists are targeting vulnerable homeowners.

In Rockland County, officials are trying to fight the worsening mortgage fraud problem by forming the Real Estate Fraud Investigation Task Force. The task force, a joint effort of Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, County Clerk Paul Piperato and County Sheriff James Kralik, will investigate and prosecute fraud cases involving recorded real estate documents. The task force will emphasize those instances in which the victim’s home is at risk of foreclosure.

“We must be proactive about protecting the people of Rockland County against mortgage and deed fraud,” Zugibe said. “Our team effort will strive to reassure all residents that we will catch and prosecute any and all criminals taking advantage of people at risk of losing their homes.”

Scams can involve con artists forging a home owner’s signature on deeds, transferring property ownership to themselves or mortgaging homes without the consent of the real owners.

Sometimes, the rightful owner is dead — or an occupant of a nursing home.

“Any person accused of swindling homeowners and lenders through fake deeds is a crook of the worst kind,” Kralik said. “This type of white collar crime is complex and profitable, but the criminals involved are no different from those who hold up banks or burglarize homes.”

Posted by Jay Loomis on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 at 6:24 pm |
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Watson to buy rights to generic drugs


Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced an agreement to buy rights to 17 generic drugs that will be divested as a result of the pending sale of Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. to Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

Watson said that it will make an upfront payment of $36 million to buy the products and will make additional payments to Teva when milestones are met on the development-stage products.

The medications in the deal include cyclosporine, which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and other ailments. Barr has major operations in Rockland County.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 at 4:57 pm |
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Steve & Barry’s to close remaining stores


Steve & Barry’s said that it will close its remaining 173 clothing stores nationally as it becomes the latest retail chain to fall victim to slow consumer spending in a weak economy.

Twenty stores in New York state are affected by the closings, including one at the Palisades Center in West Nyack.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection last week.

Going-out-of-business sales are expected to last up to seven weeks, but some stores will close sooner, the company said. Steve & Barry’s, which sells casual wear for men, women and children, has been downsizing for months. In August, the company announced plans to close 97 stores and keep the rest open after two investment firms bought the Port Washington-based company. But now it is opting to shutter the remaining locations.

“These going-out-of-business sales will give the general public, as well as the thousands of loyal Steve & Barry’s customers, an opportunity to acquire brand name and licensed apparel at greatly reduced prices,” said Scott Bernstein, chief executive officer of SB Capital, which will help conduct the sales. “Inventory valued at approximately $250 million will be liquidated to the bare walls. Everything in the stores must be sold.”

Posted by Jay Loomis on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 at 4:13 pm |
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Stop & Shop recalls squash


The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. announced a product recall that could affect customers who have purchased Thanksgiving meals from the grocery chain.

Stop & Shop, one of the largest supermarket operators in the Lower Hudson Valley, said that the recall affects 24-ounce butternut squash sides that are packaged with the chain’s prepared turkey and ham holiday dinners.

Stop & Shop said that it took action after its vendor, Simmering Soup Inc., recalled the product because of “an undeclared egg allergen and quality concerns.”

“The recall applies only to butternut squash that comes as part of the packaged holiday dinners and not to squash sold in the prepared foods department,” Stop & Shop said in a written statement. “To date, no illnesses have been reported due to the recalled product.”

Customers who have already taken their holiday meals home should throw away the two containers of squash and return to the store for a $12 refund to allow them to purchase an alternative side dish of their choice, the company said.

“Customers who have not yet picked up their meals may do so as planned — the squash will be removed, and the price of the meal will be reduced by $12,” Stop & Shop added. “No other items in the meals are being recalled besides the squash, and customers are asked not to return the entire meal.”

If customers have questions, they can call the company at 1-800-767-7772. The Stop & Shop call center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
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CFO named at Reader’s Digest


Thomas A. Williams was named senior vice president and chief financial officer of The Reader’s Digest Association Inc. in Chappaqua. Williams previously spent two years as executive vice president and chief financial officer at Affinion Group Inc. in Norwalk, Conn. Before that, he spent more than 20 years with AT&T, including a stint as CFO of the company’s Network, Customer Service & Merger Synergies Division.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 at 12:03 pm |
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WHX completes reverse stock split


WHX Corp., a White Plains industrial products manufacturer, said that the company has completed a 1-for-10 reverse stock split of its common stock. That means that every 10 shares of common stock will be reclassified into one share. The company said that it expects the split-adjusted common stock will begin trading on the Pink Sheets on Tuesday under the new symbol WXCO. Shares today fell 15 cents to 70 cents.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
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Barr shareholders appove sale of the company


Shareholders of Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. have approved the sale of the company to Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd., the world’s largest maker of generic drugs. Barr, which has major operations in Rockland County, said it expects that buyout will be finalized by the end of the year now that shareholders have given their approval.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 3:04 pm |
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Reader’s Digest launches venture with Rick Warren


The Reader’s Digest Association Inc. hopes to expand its readership base through a wide-ranging multimedia partnership with Rick Warren, one of the nation’s best known Christian ministers and writers.

In the ambitious collaboration announced yesterday, the Chappaqua-based publisher and Warren said they will jointly produce products aimed at “people who are seeking their purpose in life and wish to interact with others on their spiritual journeys.”

The venture will include a quarterly magazine, “The Purpose Driven Connection,” for which Warren will serve as editor-in-chief.

Other products will include DVDs, workbooks, Internet-based discussion guides and a Christian social networking website.

For Reader’s Digest, the partnership fits with management’s strategy to develop new revenue streams and diversify the company. Profitability suffered before a private-equity buyout of Reader’s Digest nearly two years ago. In addition, the flagship Reader’s Digest, while still the world’s largest magazine, has struggled to overcome a reputation as a product that appealed more to an aging demographic than younger readers.

“This is one of our company’s most important and far-reaching ventures ever,” said Alyce Alston, president of the Reader’s Digest Home & Garden and Health & Wellness affinities. “Together we will create a category-busting multimedia suite that will help millions of people in their daily lives, including those who already follow the Purpose Driven principles as well as seekers everywhere looking for greater fulfillment.”

Warren has a big national following as the founder of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., a congregation with more than with 100,000 members. He also is a best-selling author whose book “The Purpose Driven Life” has sold more than 30 million copies since its debut in 2002 and has been translated into nearly 100 languages.

Warren even was an influential figure in the presidential campaign when he hosted a question-and-answer session with candidates John McCain and Barack Obama.

The magazine is expected to begin publishing in early 2009.

“The magazine will be consistent with our highest editorial standards,” said Frank Lalli, vice president of international editions and magazine development at Reader’s Digest. “In the best traditions of RDA, we are commissioning extraordinary photographers, illustrators and writers to travel the world and capture real-life stories that will change how readers think and inspire them to take action to improve society.”

The partnership also will promote Saddleback Church’s Peace Plan that seeks to mobilize Christians to combat global problems, including spiritual emptiness, corrupt leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic diseases and illiteracy.

“We are excited about this new partnership and its unprecedented potential for international impact,” Warren said in a written statement. “The Purpose Driven Connection represents more than simply integrated multimedia resources; it will become a platform for a movement of people to change the world.”

Posted by Jay Loomis on Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 2:35 pm |
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Amscan reports strong Halloween sales


Amscan Holdings Inc., an Elmsford-based retailer that sells party supplies, said that it posted strong sales during the Halloween season despite the worsening U.S. economic slowdown.

The company reported retail sales of $244.5 million during the five-week Halloween season, an increase of 42.1 percent from a year earlier.

Amscan said it benefited from an expansion of its temporary Halloween USA outlets from 116 stores to 149 stores since last year. In addition to the temporary stores, the company operated 321 Party City and Party America stores and 86 smaller outlet stores during the Halloween season this year.

“We are pleased with the results of our 2008 Halloween selling season,” Chief Executive Officer Gerry Rittenberg said in a written statement. “In spite of general economic conditions and continued aggressive competition from other temporary Halloween stores, our strong marketing efforts and merchandising assortments allowed us to drive results generally in line with our expectations.”

The company said that the sales gain also related to its acquisition of Factory Card & Party Outlet Corp. and the formation of Party City Franchise Group LLC in November 2007.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Friday, November 21st, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
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Georgia awards $873 million contract to IBM


IBM Corp., the Armonk-based computer services giant, will manage information technology systems for the state of Georgia under a $873 million contract.

Under the eight-year agreement, IBM will consolidate computer systems spread across 11 state agencies into “an integrated and reliable operation,” the company said. The contract, which includes two additional one-year optional extensions, also calls for about 300 state employees to be offered jobs at IBM or subcontractors Dell or Xerox.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Friday, November 21st, 2008 at 12:20 pm |
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BioScrip names president


BioScrip Inc., an Elmsford-based pharmacy benefits manager, has named Richard M. Smith as its president and chief operating officer.

Smith has more than 14 years of management experience in the health care industry.

Most recently, he was chief executive officer and director of Byram Healthcare Centers Inc., a provider of medical supplies and pharmacy products to patients with chronic conditions. Smith also was previously the president and chief operating officer of Option Care Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Friday, November 21st, 2008 at 12:00 pm |
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Drew announces management changes


Leigh J. Abrams will step down as the chief executive officer of Drew Industries Inc. after nearly 30 years running the White Plains-based company. His unusually long tenure as CEO, which began during a recession in 1979 and ends with the country in the midst of another economic crisis, saw him build Drew into a major manufacturer of parts for recreational vehicles and manufactured homes.

Abrams, 66, will remain at Drew as chairman of the board.

Drew also announced additional changes in top management.

Fred Zinn, Drew’s president, will become CEO and remain a member of Drew’s board. Edward W. “Rusty” Rose, III, chairman since 1984, was named lead director. The changes are effective Jan. 1.

“In the 28 years Fred has been with Drew, he has played a key role in growing Drew from a small company to a market leader for RV and manufactured home components,” Abrams said in a written statement. “We look forward to Fred’s leadership as we continue our successful strategy based on market share growth, new product introductions, acquisitions and operational efficiencies.”

Zinn, 57, was named chief financial officer in 1986 and appointed executive vice president in 2001. In May, Zinn was promoted to president.

“Over the last 28 years I’ve learned extensively from both Leigh and Rusty, and I’m delighted that we will continue to have guidance from them in their new roles on Drew’s board of directors,” Zinn said.

Posted by Jay Loomis on Thursday, November 20th, 2008 at 6:34 pm |
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Business in the Burbs is our online news blog about businesses based or operating in the Lower Hudson Valley. Visitors here will also find items of interest to consumers in the region. Most contributions are from business reporters and editors covering Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties.


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