THE FORMER Judane knitwear factory at Gremista could be divided into a number of smaller business units after troubled businessman Chris Hodge finally vacated the premises shortly before Christmas.
The budget superstore run by Mr Hodge was rarely out of the headlines during his three-year tenure due to a number of spats with the SIC and the Millers who own the building, but the long-running and acrimonious saga was eventually brought to a conclusion by his failure to pay rent for the premises.
Frank Miller said this week that Mr Hodge had left the building in a “poor state” of cleanliness, but that there had been “substantial” interest from a number of different parties since the property was advertised in this newspaper over the past fortnight.
The factory is advertised as being “immediately available for sale or lease” and has planning consent for either retail or manufacturing use. Mr Miller said that while nothing concrete had been agreed to date, there was one party interested in taking on around half of the building and around half a dozen parties had expressed an interest in taking on smaller portions.
“We’re even looking at sub-dividing the property into smaller units, because there seems to be quite a demand,” he said, adding he had been pleasantly surprised by the level of interest given the fragile economic climate.
Mr Miller does not expect to see any of the money owed to him by Mr Hodge for unpaid rent dating back to last February. Mr Hodge moved all of his remaining stock out of the building shortly before Christmas and the warehouse signs were painted over earlier this week.
Mr Hodge – who claims the Millers have “ruined” him by reneging on a “gentleman’s agreement” to sell the factory to him for around £600,000 and then asking for more money – is understood to still be living in the isles and pursuing other business interests, but was not able to be contacted by The Shetland Times this week.
At one point in 2006 Mr Hodge’s discount warehouse was employing around 30 people, but that number rapidly diminished as his business began to struggle, with only two employees left in November, and Mr Miller said he believed Mr Hodge had been technically insolvent for more than a year.
“We’ve found a lot of papers in the factory,” Mr Miller said. “I think he’s due quite a considerable number of people quite a considerable amount of money.”