Office Max closing, Harbor Freight moving in

Office Max in Ashtabula Township is closing a number of its stores, including its Ashtabula store on Nov. 13. Harbor Freight bought the building for $1.1 million, according to the Ashtabula County Auditor's Office.

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — There’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is Office Max is closing a number of its stores, including its Ashtabula store on Nov. 13, and plans to lay off more than 13,000 workers by the end of 2023 as part of a restructuring plan, according to its corporate website.

The good news is Harbor Freight purchased the 3.3-acre property at 3315 N. Ridge E. (Route 20) for $1.1 million and “it will just be a matter of time before they change over the store,” said Ashtabula County Auditor David Thomas.

Harbor Freight plans to open between Feb. 22 and March 12, 2022, according to store officials.

Harbor Freight sells more than 7,000 tools and accessories across a wide range of categories including: automotive, compressors, generators, hand and power tools, lawn and garden and tool storage, to name a few, according to its website.

Office Max/Office Depot is looking to recoup more than $850 million lost during the pandemic, according to its corporate headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla.

No one at the Ashtabula store, which offers office supplies, electronics and print services, would comment on the store closing. 

Ashtabula Township Trustee Bambi Paulchel said she’s sorry to hear about any business leaving the township.

“More and more people are using Amazon to get everything they need without leaving their homes,” she said. “It’s all about convenience these days. It would be great if another company opens a business in that building.”

In June, Rhino Holdings Ashtabula LLC, a for-profit corporation in Brooklyn, N.Y., bought the Office Max property for $1.1 million from Ashtabula Mall Realty Holding LLC,  Thomas said.

The buyer, Rhino Holdings Ashtabula LLC, was formed on May 17, 2021, according to the Secretary of State’s website.

“It looks like Rhino Holdings was created specifically for this purchase,” Thomas said.

The seller, Mike Kohan, who bought Ashtabula Towne Square Mall for $10.2 million in February 2020, is the man behind Ashtabula Mall Realty. When Kohan bought the mall property last year, it came with many buildings such as Tractor Supply, Bob Evans, Office Max and the outlying commercial property, Thomas said.

Since that time, Kohan first sold the Bob Evans parcel for $625,000 real property to Bob Evans and then from Bob Evans to North Ridge Ashtabula LLC for $1.5 million on April 5, 2021, according to auditor’s website.

In 2020, Kohan also sold the Applebee’s property for $624,000 to Applebee’s management corporation, and the Burger King parcel for $624,000 to Burger King’s management corporation, according to auditor’s website. Both restaurants were previously renting the buildings.

“This is concerning because they are taking all of the value out of the original mall property,” Thomas said. 

Kohan is also late on his 2021 taxes. He currently owes $112,000 to $53,000 from the first half of 2021 and a $5,311 penalty for non-first half payment. Second half is $53,000 due July 21, according to the auditor’s website.

“I am beyond upset that [Kohan] has made no tax payments since purchasing the property in 2020, all while selling off parcels and buildings and making a profit on the property,” Thomas said. “We will be certifying them delinquent this month. I have begun discussions with our county prosecutor and treasurer to be proactive with this property given its size and importance to the county.”

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