Channing Bete to close June 30

  • Michael G. Bete, president of the Channing Bete Company and the grandson of its founder, stands inside the company’s building at 1 Community Place in South Deerfield on Sunday. The company expects to cease operations June 30, after 65 years in business. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

  • The Channing Bete Co. at 1 Community Place in South Deerfield expects to cease operations June 30, after 65 years in business. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

  • Above, an early example of a Channing Bete Company publication in the trademarked Scriptography style. Left, One of the many publications the Channing Bete Company produced.

  • One of the many publications the Channing Bete Company produced.

  • One of the many publications the Channing Bete Company produced.

  • The Channing Bete Company at 1 Community Place in South Deerfield expects to cease operations June 30, after 65 years in business. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

Staff Writer
Published: 4/9/2019 5:29:28 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD – The Channing Bete Company expects to cease operations June 30, the South Deerfield publisher announced Tuesday.

The first position eliminations will come June 24, and most employees will be released between June 24 and July 3, according to the company. A handful of workers will stay on a bit longer as the company dissolves. Employees can anticipate a two-week window for their estimated end date.

The company employs 105 people, who learned of their fate during a company-wide meeting Tuesday.

Founded in 1954 by Channing L. Bete Sr., the for-profit company produces booklets, folders, handbooks, presentations and other publications, typically pertaining to public health and wellness. Bete is pronounced “beet.” The advent of the internet and the lingering effects of the 2008 worldwide financial crisis were central factors in the company’s decision to close.

“In the past three decades, technology has worked a sea change in the publishing industry, and the climate for a small, print-based publisher has become increasingly challenging. Ultimately, decreased demand for printed publications, combined with the loss of a major distribution contract [with the American Heart Association], was more than the Channing Bete Company could withstand,” the company said in a statement. “Despite the need to close, the firm is on solid financial footing, will meet all of its financial obligations, offer employees enhanced severance pay and assistance in finding new employment, and ensure that its customers have future access to the publications on which they rely.”

Company President Michael G. Bete and his father, former President Channing L. “Joe” Bete Jr., sat down with The Recorder on Monday for an exclusive interview about the closure. Mike Bete said most employees will receive five months severance pay, based on their annualized wage and years of service with the company. The minimum severance benefit for a recent hire will be five weeks.

Mike Bete said the average tenure of a current employee is 20 years. He said about a dozen have been there at least 40 years and two that have been there five decades.

“I know a lot of businesses say this, but it is truly like a family,” he said. “These are people we’ve grown up with, that we know and care about deeply. So it’s the rational business decision, absolutely, but they’ve been shoulder to shoulder with us every day trying to make the world a better place.”

The company’s health insurance plan will end July 31. Channing Bete’s human resources department will in the coming weeks work with the company’s health insurance broker and state resources to provide information to help workers sign up for private medical insurance. Employees will also be eligible to apply for unemployment insurance compensation payments from the state.

“The company encourages area employers seeking referrals for talented, dedicated employees to contact its human resources department,” the Channing Bete Company said in a statement.

Joe Bete at least once wiped away tears Monday while talking about the company’s closure. The Betes said today is a sad one for their family, but they take solace knowing closure is a responsible decision and that the company has contributed much to the local community.

“It is the best possible solution that could possibly be had,” Joe Bete said. “The business decision is absolutely the proper one – no reservations, emotional or otherwise, because of that at all.

“Sixty-five years is unusual for a business,” the Greenfield resident added.

The company employs writers, artists, people in advertising and marketing, customer service representatives, human resources workers, people in accounting, a production team, and warehouse workers.

Mike Bete said about half the company’s publishing is done on site.

About the company

The Channing Bete Company was in Greenfield until 1978, when it moved to the roughly 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility on 40 acres at 1 Community Place in South Deerfield. Mike Bete said he and his father are working with a potential buyer they declined to name, due to a non-disclosure agreement.

Mike Bete said the 2008 recession greatly accelerated his customers’ move from this company’s printed publications to “‘free-on-the internet’ substitutions.”

“Our publications, we try to give people information and tools to make healthier and better choices in their lives, and to empower them. ... We sell to governmental agencies, usually, who then give them away. And so many of our publications are used by people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the information. They’re disadvantaged populations, mostly,” he explained. “And so we go to work at a for-profit company with this non-profit mission, truly feeling like we can make a difference every day. It’s been a wonderful experience because we feel like we’ve touched, we know that we’ve touched millions and millions of lives across the country, whether it be on trying to improve academic performance at school and help those disadvantaged populations get better, help people prepare for a flu pandemic that they might not otherwise understand, or get vaccinated so there’s not the measles (outbreak).”

Channing Bete is the American Heart Association’s largest distributor, having partnered with the nonprofit organization in 1996, though the company loses its AHA contact at the end of June, hence the June 30 closure date.

“(The AHA is) going to move in a different direction as they’ve digitized their product line and have new ideas about how they’re going to distribute,” Mike Bete said.

The company is also the exclusive distributor of Prevent Child Abuse America’s publications and, at different points in time, has worked with the American Lung Association and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Other topics of publication include opiate and heroin abuse, suicide prevention, social media safety, smoking cessation, and parenting.

Mike Bete, a Greenfield native who lives in Amherst, said the company has supported the United Way of Franklin County, the Amherst Survival Center, the hospitals and libraries of Greenfield and Northampton, and other causes and organizations aligned with its values.

“We feel awful for our employees, for the hole we’re going to leave in the community,” he said.

Mike Bete mentioned the South Deerfield facility includes a cafe with products subsidized by the company. He said the final two and a half months of operation “there will be such a thing as a free lunch, and breakfast.”

The company’s history

Stoughton native Channing L. Bete Sr. started an advertising agency in 1936 (in the middle of the Great Depression), incorporating the business 10 years later. He began writing short booklets on issues such as world peace and how to make the planet a better place. In 1954, that advertising agency became the publishing company known as the Channing Bete Company. Its signature products featured the trademarked Scriptography – described as a universal word and graphics style Bete designed to quickly convey key points and help readers retain information.

The company eventually had offices in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Japan. Over time, publications were translated into 28 languages.

Joe Bete took the reins in 1967 and the company became a multi-million-dollar corporation over the next 30 years. Mike Bete became president in 1995, when his father retired.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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