Closure of Hofmann Church and religious properties in Erie

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  • 62 years ago, Erie natives Fran and Dick Hofmann founded what would become Hofmann’s Church and Religious Goods Inc.
  • The store at 420 E. 26th St. was a go-to merchant for churches and other religious organizations in northwestern Pennsylvania.
  • Among those saddened by Hofmann’s passing is Erie Catholic Bishop Lawrence T. Persico

An Erie-based store that served churches and faith communities for 62 years has closed and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The demise of the family-owned Hofmann’s Church and Religious Goods Inc. leaves a void in northwestern Pennsylvania for the purchase of Bibles, candles, chalices, communion waffles and other church-essential goods. operation of places of worship.

Hofmann’s, at 420 E. 26th St., filed for Chapter 7 in U.S. bankruptcy court in Erie on Oct. 20. Also in October, the company, founded in 1960, posted signs in its windows saying it is closed “until further notice”. “

Julie Hofmann, co-owner of the store, posed questions to the company’s bankruptcy attorney, Tina Fryling.

Fryling said Hofmann never recovered from the pandemic and also struggled with the slowing economy in general.

“It’s permanently closed, and that’s basically due to the economy and COVID,” Fryling said.

Before it closed, the store had only three employees, including Julie Hofmann and her husband, Patrick Hofmann, the other co-owner. It had up to 13 employees 10 years ago when Patrick and Julie Hofmann purchased the East 26th Street building from the parents of Patrick Hofmann, who founded the company.

Below Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, a trustee oversees the sale of the company’s assets – a liquidation – to pay its creditors. Chapter 7 is different from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in which a business reorganizes its debts to stay in business and pay its creditors over time.

In the last few weeks before the shutdown, Hofmann staff referred some callers to meet their needs with other providers on the Internet.

That’s where many parishes will likely turn now, said Erie Catholic Bishop Lawrence T. Persico.

“It’s always difficult to see a business close in Erie, I can’t help but think of the employees who are affected,” Persico said in a statement.

“The parishes have depended on Hofmann for generations and they have always provided a very good service. Their closure, unfortunately, is another sign of the times,” Persico said. “There are a number of online options for religious and liturgical goods, so the needs of our parishes will always be met. But it will be an adjustment to no longer have this in-person resource available.

Hofmann’s creditors include purveyors of religious goods

Hofmann’s chairman, Patrick Hofmann, son of the founders, filed for bankruptcy on behalf of the company. Patrick Hofmann and Julie Hofmann, the store’s vice president, each own 49% of the company, according to bankruptcy records. Another person, listed as secretary, owns 2%.

The bankruptcy filing lists the company’s liabilities at $517,070 and the value of its assets, including inventory, at $125,107. The original bankruptcy filing listed the East 26th Street building, just east of Parade Street, as part of the entire property and valued it at $275,000, bringing the total asset value to $387,933. . However, an amended filing removed the building as an asset because it is owned by Patrick and Julie Hofmann as individuals and not their company.

The bankruptcy file lists around fifty creditors, whose claims vary considerably. Several of the creditors are religion-related businesses. They include Cathedral Candle, of Syracuse, New York, which owed $7,687, and Greetings of Faith, of Mineola, New York, which owed $1,695.

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One of the biggest creditors is Citizens Bank, which is owed $182,000 for a business loan. The Hofmanns are also creditors and owed a total of $188,605 for a loan they made to the company as shareholders, according to bankruptcy records. This loan indicates the extent to which the Hofmanns used their own money to try to keep their business viable.

All of the creditors have unsecured claims except one — GMC Finance, which holds a lease on an SUV worth $30,000, the documents show. Although GMC can repossess the vehicle, unsecured creditors have no collateral to secure repayment.

Bankruptcy filing believes ‘no funds will be available to unsecured creditors’ after bankruptcy estate pays all administrative expenses, or costs that arise after the filing of the bankruptcy petition. Administrative claims have the highest priority among bankruptcy claims.

The Chapter 7 trustee assigned to Hofmann’s bankruptcy is Erie attorney John Melaragno, who regularly handles bankruptcy cases as a trustee. Trustees in bankruptcy work for the United States Administrators Programthe section of the United States Department of Justice that oversees the administration of bankruptcy cases.

Pat and Julie Hofmann, co-owners of Hofmann Church and Religious Property, 420 E. 26th St. in Erie, are shown in this Oct. 19, 2010, file photo. The owners filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Oct. 20 october.

Pittsburgh-based U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Carlotta Bohm is assigned to the case and has ultimate authority over the bankruptcy disposition.

US Bankruptcy Court in Erie is a division of United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, based in Pittsburgh. Erie-based District Bankruptcy Judge Thomas P. Agresti, whose courtroom is in the Erie Federal Courthouse, is retiring and stopping taking new cases.

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The first scheduled event in the Hofmann case is a Dec. 2 telephone meeting between Melaragno, Fryling and creditors, according to court records.

The owners had their origins in the manufacture of homemade rosaries

The founders of Hofmann were Erie natives Fran and Dick Hofmann, parents of Patrick Hofmann. Fran Hofmann dies at 85 2017. Dick Hofmann dies at 88 2019eight years after retiring from Hofmann.

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The family business began after the Hofmanns got married and lived in Alaska, where Richard Hofmann was stationed during the Korean War.

“It was in Alaska that their hobby of making rosaries to send home as gifts became the genesis of the business they later started, worked and built together for over 50 years,” according to Dick Hofmann’s obituary.

The Hofmanns opened a “little religious gift shop” in Erie in 1960 at East 28th and German streets, selling religious cards, rosaries and statues and general gifts, according to the business. website. The store was first called Richard’s Gifts, then FM Hofmann Religious Gifts and finally Hofmann’s Church and Religious Goods Inc.

Customer demand led Hofmann’s to expand its product line to include “all facets of products and services for liturgical worship communities as well as a wide range of unique gift ideas, beautiful jewelry and an extensive selection of books. religious, Bibles and music,” according to the website.

Hofmann’s incorporated in 1978, moved to East 26th Street and adopted shared ownership with parents and their two children: Patrick Hofmann and Jacquie Hofmann. Jacquie Hofmann left the company in 2004, when she was President and CEO.

Patrick and Julie Hofmann purchased the East 26th Street building from Fran and Dick Hofmann in November 2011, according to Erie County property records.

The store filled “a very unique niche” in Erie

For Anne-Marie Welsh, spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Erie, the closure of Hofmann’s is a personal loss for her as a customer — and a loss for the area’s religious communities and organizations.

“I feel terrible. I hate to see a business shut down, and it’s a very unique niche,” Welsh said.

Hofmann’s absence could leave many churches across the region and beyond struggling to find a new supplier for a wide range of products commonly found in churches but not available from traditional retailers. Items included clothing, candle wax, and special cleaners that remove red wine stains.

“Parishes could buy everything from candles and communion hosts to statues and books,” Welsh said. “They were very good at ordering things. They had samples and lots of catalogs available.”

Contact Jim Martin at [email protected].

Contact Ed Palatella at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ETNpalattella.

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