A Comeback for Chiasso

Three months after Chicago-based Chiasso filed for bankruptcy protection, the gifts and home goods cataloger/retailer was acquired by CCS Capital, a Northfield, IL-based buyout fund owned by Chris Segal. In early April, CCS Capital bought the direct portion of Chiasso for $700,400.

CSS Capital plans to retain Chiasso’s merchandising direction and employees, says Segal, who had served as direct marketing business manager for home decor cataloger/retailer Crate & Barrel from 1993 to 2000. (Segal’s father, Gordon, founded the company.) Chiasso sells quirky home decor items such as brightly colored puzzle-shape ottomans and frog bathroom scales.

“My immediate goal,” says Segal about the acquisition, “is to make Chiasso profitable.” Chiasso had closed its 14 retail stores prior to the sale. Eliminating the stores — and the expensive store leases — should help quite a bit, Segal concedes, but more attention needs to be placed on the company’s P&L. “The former focus was on growing the business in order to sell it, but I plan to grow the business at a more moderate pace and try to watch expenses along the way,” Segal says.

Former Chiasso CEO Dave Marshall, who was offered a position with the company after the sale, says that he plans to leave Chiasso after a two-month transition period. But he notes that CSS Capital’s strategy to concentrate solely on direct marketing, rather than retail, “is not far off from our previous internal plan to focus on the catalog and the Website to turn around the company.”

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