Businessman to City: ‘Wooden Shoe’ Rather Have a Factory than an Eyesore?

By Fenwick Jolsen

Published March 16th, 2015

The Central Warehouse

ALBANY — Looking to capitalize on Albany’s rich Dutch heritage, a local businessman is proposing to transform the city’s most infamous eyesore into a wooden shoe factory.

Refrigerator magnet magnate and area philanthropist Johan Grout said his plan would not only put people to work, but also bring a much-needed facelift to the old Central Warehouse along Colonie and Montgomery streets, which now stands vacant and dilapidated, marring the view of Albany’s otherwise average skyline.

“It’s really very simple,” said Grout. “You cannot move toward the future without embracing the past. When Henry Hudson first stepped upon Albany’s shores in 1609 and claimed the city for the Dutch, his wooden shoe left an indelible footprint on our history. Wooden shoes marked our beginning and I think they can lead us into the future.

“Besides,” said Grout, “fashion is cyclical.”

Burgard Crupp, spokesman for Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, said that while the mayor has not yet reviewed Grout’s proposal, the plan is intriguing.

“We need to do something about that warehouse,” said Crupp. “It’s an attraction for squatters, drug users, and even worse, historic preservationists.”

Penny Horr, executive director of Albany’s Dutch Heritage and Wooden Shoe Festival, praised Grout’s plan.

“It’s a brilliant example of forward thinking with a nice backward twist,” Horr said. “The project ties in very nicely with our event, too. As they say in Holland, ‘fantasierijk!’”

The Dutch Heritage and Wooden Shoe Festival is currently the Capital Region’s seventh most popular annual event, behind only the Tulip Festival, Lark Fest, The Santa Speedo Sprint, the seasonal opening of Jumping Jacks, the seasonal closing of Jumping Jacks and Electronics Recycling Day.


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