He calls himself “The Accumulator.”
The Super Thrift Bargain Center on Midvale Avenue is the latest addition to an increasingly diverse East Falls marketplace.
The Bargain Center opened in January of this year, and stocks both new home furnishings and thrift-store accoutrements in its 3,000-sq. foot facility. The store is owned and operated by Germantown resident – and accumulator – Fred Hucks.
Inside the store, the layout reflects the merchandise, and the merchandise reflects the layout.
Immediate upon entry is what Hucks calls the “Bed, Bath and Beyond section,” which features new kitchen appliances, bedding, linen, and miscellaneous decorative accessories.
“It’s high end at low cost,” he explained.
Cross a threshold and you enter the thrift store end of the operation, which features men’s and women’s clothing, shoes, memorabilia, and in Hucks’ words, “bric-a-brac.”
Hucks explained the store’s name derives from its inventory – an outsized thrift store coupled with a discount retail operation.
And stock he’s got – hence his moniker.
“I could probably do this place three or four times over,” he related.
Gina Snyder, executive director of the East Falls Development Corporation, was equally impressed by the amount of inventory.
“It’s practically stocked floor to ceiling,” she observed, noting that inventory is a key component of any retail venture.
A stocked inventory
In fact, Hucks’ stock goes beyond the walls and into a storage container located outside.
Within is what he described as being over 500 pieces of art created by his wife, Terra Rodgers.
“Everything from sports to abstract art,” as Hucks described it, and said that he hopes to display – and sell – his wife’s work inside his store.
This wouldn’t be his first time as a purveyor of art.
Originally from Washington, DC, Hucks once ran an art gallery – Diamond in the Rough – in Mt. Airy.
He later turned his attention to the clothing industry, designing and marketing wares for Sahaabah Exclusives, a company with tastes tailored to urban fashion.
Hucks related that he is from a long line of business-oriented people, and he’s got a good feeling about Bargain Center.
So good in fact, that he’s looking to buy the building – he currently leases – by the end of the year.
History of the Midvale Ave. building
Like many Philadelphia properties, The Bargain Center’s location has a storied past.
Erected in the late 1970s as “Donut Towne,” the building was transferred for use by West Coast Video in 1989, according to city zoning records.
In 2001, the property was sold to Dwain Barnes – present landlord at the site – who in 2003, sought permission to demolish the existing structure and rebuild an edifice containing three units, one of which was to include a take-out eatery.
This proposal was denied by Licenses and Inspection.
In 2004, approval was sought to add an additional story to the structure, which never came into being.
The building sat vacant until 2009, when a produce market was installed. Never establishing a dedicated clientele, the market closed not long after.
Barnes was unavailable for comment.
Amidst Barnes’ proprietorship of the building, representatives from Triumph Motorcycles in Manayunk expressed interest in the site. Despite community support, the initiative never went any further.
Management from Triumph Motorcycles did not respond to Newsworks’ inquiry.
Gina Snyder emphasized that the location remains desirable.
“It’s a good building,” she observed, adding that it’s one of few commercial properties in the neighborhood with a visible location on a major street – with off-street parking.
Hucks concurred with Snyder, observing that having a capacious parking lot in East Falls – indeed, anywhere in the city – is both an asset and a draw.
Visions for a community gathering place
One customer drawn in by the plentiful parking was Stacy Keegan of Center City.
She was in East Falls on Friday morning to meet a friend for coffee, and needed a place to turn her car around.
She turned into the store’s parking area and, noting the furniture displayed out front, decided to have a look around.
“I’m always looking for unique pieces for my new home,” said the consignment-shop aficionado while eyeing the wares. She ultimately purchased a black metal candle holder.
Young or old, residents or visitors, Hucks wants to continue building his customer base and expand his services.
In the short-term, he’s hoping to set up some umbrellas in front of the store and sell drinks and water ice – “a place for the community to sit,” he said.
Also planned is a correction in the display on the front of the store, which contains a minor spelling error – a small oversight in Huck’s haste to ready the store for the public.
Another frequent customer is Marshall Freeman, a commissioner for the Philadelphia Council on Human Relations. He’s developed a multi-faceted relationship with Hucks, as client – and sage.
“He gives me ideas,” said Hucks, adding “I value the ideas he tries to convey.”
In a recent visit to the store, Freeman complemented Hucks’ enterprise and vision, noting that the entrepreneur is trying to go beyond retail and create a space – a destination – that attracts people for something more than purchases.
“It’s a place where people can come and solve the issues of the world,” said Freeman.