Lamson lays off union workers
Store open while company makes financial plans
Lamson & Goodnow employee Cathy Pelletier helps customer Zach Teutsch of Washington, D.C. purchase some knives at the store in Shelburne Falls on Wednesday. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »
Knives hang in racks of the Lamson & Goodnow store in Shelburne Falls on Wednesday. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »
The former Lamson & Goodnow store in Shelburne Falls is one of the company's two buildings to be auctioned Sept. 17, along with an empty lot. Recorder file photo/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »
Lamson & Goodnow employee Cathy Pelletier restocks the shelves at the Shelburne Falls store on Wednesday. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »
Knives hang in the racks of the Lamson & Goodnow store in Shelburne Falls on Wednesday. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »
SHELBURNE FALLS — Business was brisk at the Lamson & Goodnow factory outlet store Wednesday morning as customers, some oblivious to the news of the company’s bankruptcy filing, looked at sale-priced knives and kitchen accessories.
But in the upstairs business office, Chief Operations Officer James Pelletier was working on new financing plans to be presented at a bankruptcy hearing in Springfield, scheduled for Sept. 3. The company filed for emergency protection against its creditors on Friday, and an initial hearing took place Tuesday in Worcester, giving the company permission to operate on its cash flow, on an interim basis.
Pelletier said 13 of the cutlery’s unionized staff were laid off last week, in addition to several employees from an earlier round of layoffs. “Our union is on layoff until we call them back,” he said. “We will be discussing with them next week what their status is,” he said. The factory employs a total of 31 workers.
According to the petition filed in court, the nation’s oldest cutlery owes roughly $450,000 to at least 20 unsecured creditors.
It also owes $1.06 million on a U.S. Small Business Administration loan and about $2 million to Newtek Small Business Finance Corp. in New York City.
The 177-year-old company is hoping to pay off its debts by selling the 18.5-acre Conway Street factory complex, which has been put up for sale for $2.1 million, and to repay the other debts with future profits.
Pelletier said the riverfront property, with seven multi-story buildings, may have been a good design for manufacturing in the 19th century, but not for the 21st.
“During the winter months, it’s difficult to move materials from one building to another,” he remarked. “Once we sell this property, we’ll be looking for the right fit for us.”
Earlier this year, Buckland town officials discussed buying part of the Lamson & Goodnow property for a highway garage. Recently, the Board of Selectmen met in executive session to again discuss real estate deals for the site.
“We did present the property to the Board of Selectmen, and they are examining it,” said Pelletier. “We gave them a variety of options.”
When asked to comment, Selectmen’s Chairman Kevin Fox said the town has discussed buying Lamson & Goodnow property over the past 10 years, but “currently, we’re not acting on it,” he said.
He said losing Lamson & Goodnow “would be a big loss for Buckland.” If there’s anything the town can do, I hope they let us know. I feel bad for the people that may be losing their jobs,” he said.
Mary Vilbon, executive director of the Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association, said the business association “recognizes that Lamson & Goodnow is part of the culture, of who we are,” she said. “They are part of the attractions here. We hope they succeed at what they need to do to move forward.”
The company was built on the river bank to take advantage of the water power. It initially built scythes, and even made bayonets for the guns carried by Union soldiers during the Civil War.
Before Kathleen Miller of Greenfield was hired to do marketing for the company, she had applied for a job three times over the last six or seven years. She said she worked a year for the company and was laid off at the end of July. “I had always wanted to work there,” she said, “so I’m sad to see it in this situation. I do hope to come back,” she said.
Pelletier said he hopes the company will find another manufacturing building in western Massachusetts that’s more efficient. “Obviously, we have talented folks,” he said. “We’re not going to build a new building, and there’s plenty of places in western Massachusetts. We’re just hoping we can find the right one.
“We have a new management team in place,” said Pelletier, who was hired in April. “We also have a really good backlog of business. Chapter 11 is protection from creditors until we get new financing — which we believe we have. And we’re working on a new budget right now.”
For now, the retail outlet remains open, although it may be closed this weekend, for an inventory count. Pelletier said there aren’t any plans at present to close the store.
You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: email@example.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277