Country Curtains, An Institution of the Berkshires, Ends its Activities After 61 Years

An iconic Berkshires company is likely to close by the end of the year after Country Curtains’ board of directors voted in favor of the company’s “orderly liquidation” of 61 years.

In announcing this decision today, Board Chair Nancy Fitzpatrick said in a statement that she was “heartbreaking to share the news that our board of directors reluctantly voted to recommend the company’s shareholders to liquidate our assets and close our doors. “

Fitzpatrick pointed out that the decision to dissolve the company “was extremely difficult for all concerned” and that the board “had explored all possible alternatives before coming to this sad conclusion”.

“We all like country curtains … and I can say, without a doubt, that we have the best and most dedicated employees in the industry,” Fitzpatrick said. “But the truth is that Country Curtains is simply no longer able to function in a financially viable way.”

A press release sent by the company painted a dark picture. The board is engaged in a multi-year effort to improve operations or find a strategic buyer, but to no avail. As a result, the Board recommended the sale of the assets and related activities of Country Curtains.

The recommendation is subject to a vote by all shareholders, to be held at a meeting on October 4, 2017, according to Country Curtains Marketing Director Shane Wirta. He told The Edge that the company employs 360 people worldwide, including 175 in Berkshire County. Headquartered in Lee, the company has 19 retail stores, including the Red Lion Inn, in 12 states.

Wirta said the company had started a turnaround more than two years ago. New leadership has been introduced, products have been updated and market changes have been made. Still, “significant losses have continued,” said Wirta. These losses exceeded $ 3 million in 2015, $ 5 million in 2016 and similar losses from 2017 to August.

“Market forces are increasingly favoring big box stores and large online retailers, who can offer cheaper products, free or low-cost shipments, and a broader range of home products for a box office.” unique, “said Wirta.

The board even hired an investment bank experienced in catalog and direct retail sales to identify a potential buyer for the company. The bank threw a wide net, but Wirta said the efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

By recommending an orderly dissolution, Country Curtains will be able to preserve value for all its shareholders. This is a particularly important consideration as many of its current and former employees participate in an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) and therefore have a direct financial interest in the value of the company’s shares.

“Throughout this process, our employees have always been at the heart of the board and family concerns,” Fitzpatrick said in a letter to employees and other friends of the company.

“Most of you are owners through the ESOP. Every lost fiscal year has meant a loss of value to you. Moving to this stage is the only way we can be certain of meeting our current obligations to you, our customers, our suppliers and others, as well as to return a portion of your equity as a shareholder of ESOP.

If the board’s recommendation is approved by the shareholders, Wirta said, Country Curtains will launch a liquidation sale in early October. The company’s operations are expected to end on December 31st. Most employees will remain in office for at least 60 days after the end of the term. shareholder vote. Eligible employees will be offered severance and other support services for the transition.

Country Curtains was founded in 1956 by Nancy Fitzpatrick’s parents, Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick, in their dining room in Whitman, Massachusetts just outside Brockton. According to a story on the company’s website, the couple was looking in stores for unbleached, spiked muslin curtains like the ones they grew up with in Vermont.

“Unable to find them but convinced that they are not the only ones who want this classic New England style for their traditional homes, they decided to have them made and sold by mail. Jane made the charming sketch of Jack’s first announcement. They arranged for fabrics and sewers. They placed the advertisement in the Boston Herald. Then they held their breath and waited.

The company continued to operate in the Fitzpatrick Lounge until 1969, when it purchased the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge. The Red Lion had fallen into a difficult period and had to be demolished and replaced by a service station.

In 2013, the Fitzpatrick also formed the Main Street Hospitality Group, a private hotel management company. In addition to the Red Lion, Main Street operates the Porches Inn at MASS MoCA (North Adams), Race Brook Lodge (Sheffield) and the new 45-room Hotel on North (Pittsfield).

Jonathan Butler is President and CEO of 1Berkshire, an umbrella organization created in 2010 to coordinate economic and cultural agencies in the region. He called the loss of Country Curtains “very disappointing”.

“It’s frustrating from a business point of view. Here we have another high-level company that has had difficulties with big box stores, “Butler said in an interview. “We’ve seen big retailers shut down everywhere because of big box stores and online retailers. And also many small companies like Country Curtains who have trouble competing with these prices. “

Butler said the big question was what the economic impact of the closure would be. In the coming weeks, his organization will work on a strategy to deal with displaced workers. However, Butler also pointed out that the Fitzpatrick deserved to be thanked for their significant contribution to the Berkshires economy.

“All of their businesses are very employee-centric and very local,” Butler said. “They are economically focused and very energetic to import dollars into the Berkshires and keep them here.”

“Over the past 60 years, we have been fortunate to have the most dedicated employees, which in no way reflects the hard work they do every day for Country Curtains,” said Celia Clancy, Executive Director of Country Curtains. Country Curtains. “As we continue this process, we will do everything in our power to support all our employees.”

“This is terrible and tragic news for you and our community. It’s really the end of an era, “said Nancy Fitzpatrick in her letter to the workers. “But I know you’re great employees, and any other business in Berkshire will be lucky to hire you. We will do everything in our power to help you establish these links. “

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