Lamson & Goodnow files for bankruptcy

  • The robotic grinding cell makes the first basic grinds to the forged steel stamps which will later become cutlery knives. This machine is operated by one person who needs to be highly skilled and fully trained. Before this machine was available the same basic grinds had to be done by 3-4 people. (Recorder file photo/Zachary P. Stephens)

    The robotic grinding cell makes the first basic grinds to the forged steel stamps which will later become cutlery knives. This machine is operated by one person who needs to be highly skilled and fully trained. Before this machine was available the same basic grinds had to be done by 3-4 people. (Recorder file photo/Zachary P. Stephens) Purchase photo reprints »

  • James Russell removes what is left of a metal sheet after a laser cutting machine created blanks of flat stock at the Lamson Goodnow Co. in Shelburne Falls. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz

    James Russell removes what is left of a metal sheet after a laser cutting machine created blanks of flat stock at the Lamson Goodnow Co. in Shelburne Falls. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Lamson & Goodnow property is for sale. <br/>Recorder file photo

    The Lamson & Goodnow property is for sale.
    Recorder file photo Purchase photo reprints »

  • The robotic grinding cell makes the first basic grinds to the forged steel stamps which will later become cutlery knives. This machine is operated by one person who needs to be highly skilled and fully trained. Before this machine was available the same basic grinds had to be done by 3-4 people. (Recorder file photo/Zachary P. Stephens)
  • James Russell removes what is left of a metal sheet after a laser cutting machine created blanks of flat stock at the Lamson Goodnow Co. in Shelburne Falls. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz
  • The Lamson & Goodnow property is for sale. <br/>Recorder file photo

BUCKLAND — The nation’s oldest cutlery business Lamson & Goodnow Manufacturing Co. of Shelburne Falls has filed for bankruptcy after 177 years of making knives and kitchen tools.

The manufacturing company filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code on Aug. 15, which means the company can reorganize and has protection from its creditors. Under Chapter 11, the owner, James Ross Anderson, can continue to own the company as a debtor in possession.

The cutlery business has also put its 18.3-acre factory complex on 45 Conway St. on the market for $2.1 million this week, according to its real estate agent, Robert Cohn of Cohn & Co. in Greenfield. The 59,000-square-foot complex includes about seven buildings.

“We will sell all of it or part of it,” Cohn said. “It’s a great opportunity for renewal of mixed use.”

Cohn said he talked with some parties that were interested in parts of the complex, but he would not comment who.

Anderson has owned the company since 1998, when he took it over from the former Lunt Silversmith.

While Anderson owns the company, in April, he appointed James Pelletier as chief operating officer according to the registry of deeds records. Pelletier did not return calls for comment.

The company owes money to 20 creditors with the largest unsecured claims.

According to a clerk in the federal bankruptcy court in Springfield, the company filed for bankruptcy protection as a result of two multi-million dollar loans it could not pay back. The company owes $1.06 million on a U.S. Small Business Administration loan and a $2.055 million loan from 2012 from the small business corporation in New York.

Late afternoon on Tuesday, the factory complex at 45 Conway St. was closed with no signs of activity.

The locked doors and empty factory was a stark contrast from the manufacturer’s former heyday as one of the top cutlers in the United States. Lamson & Goodnow was established in Shelburne Falls in 1837, turning out high quality kitchen utensils, kitchen and cutlery tool sets and chef and butchering knives.

By 1869, it had become one of the largest cutlers in America with showrooms in Boston, New York, Chicago and San Francisco, according to the company history. Lamson & Goodnow also supplied cutlery to the food service, printing and industrial industries, including two silversmith companies, Reed & Barton, and Towle.

The company is most known for its 62-piece set of fine table cutlery that was presented to President Ulysses S. Grant in 1869 and is now on display at the Smithsonian Institute.

Most recently, the company developed a line of quality barbecue tools sold by L.L. Bean, Williams-Sonoma, Brookstone and Stoddards.

The Buckland-based company has faced several problems in recent years, from controversial union negotiations to damage from Tropical Storm Irene.

In 2010, the company endured a yearlong impasse over contract negotiations, which included a two-month lockout and charges of bad-faith bargaining.

In 2011, the business suffered water and mud damage from torrential floodwaters surging from the Deerfield River during Tropical Storm Irene.

Cannot compete with the Chinese unless we go back to ten hour days, doing away with the minimum wage, and paid vacations. The laws of the global economy demand this if America is to maintain a remnant of its industrial base. This country no longer has much use for its working-class.

I am not surprised by this happening. They were very, very greedy and felt they were deserving of ALL their money and didn't want to share it with their employees. They didn't pay their bills on time for many years and expected employees to do their dirty work of dealing with creditors. I feel for the employees and not for Ross Anderson! He deserves to lose his business.

The company also suffered from mismanagement, nepotism, a large lawsuit loss and threatened suits for patent infringement. While the union deserves blame for its failure to embrace changes in technology, management is equally to blame for its failure to impose it and manage the dynamics of the business. Lamson had a strong management team about 10 years ago, was earning good money, innovating and growing – from about $4 million to $11 million in sales. But greed set in. A classic case if ever there was one. The firm had business disruption insurance and I guess must have cancelled it before the flood. A Union lock out is a death knell, you still have to pay your bills but you have no income, your cash just runs out the door. You cannot stiff your vendors and expect to retain their loyalty. It goes on and on and then it stops, in this case, at the courthouse door.

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