Best Manufacturing files for Chapter 11

Sep 01, 2006 9:30 PM  By

Jersey City, NJ-based Best Manufacturing Group, a uniform company founded in 1914, announced on Aug. 9 that it filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code. Best Manufacturing has operations in Massachusetts, Georgia, Mississippi, Illinois, Texas, and Nevada; the Chapter 11 filing does not affect the company’s subsidiaries in Mexico, Canada, and Cambodia.

Best, which launched a Website in March to supplement its print catalogs, serves the hospitality, healthcare, and image-apparel markets. Despite recent organizational improvements, the company came under heavy demands from its lenders, leading to liquidity pressures, says spokesperson Ari Korman.

“There were also some issues with integrating past acquisitions,” Korman says. These acquisitions include Artex International, which Best purchased in 2004, and Baker Linen, bought in 2002. “We’ve definitely been burdened with a lack of funds to be able to go forward and grow. We did a refinancing in March, and not long after the bank group began to act a little irrational. [The Chapter 11 filing] will give us a fresh start and really make this better for everyone involved.”

Korman says the company, which has a customer base of about 6,000, in July launched a service apparel catalog that integrates the Best and Artex lines under the Best brand name. The new catalog sells workwear ranging from aprons and chef coats to surgeon’s gowns and lab coats.

It will likely take Best six months to a year to reorganize, Korman says. “The reorganization is based on a plan we put together going back to June 30. We’ve been implementing the plan since. We look to come out of this reorganized with a healthier and stronger company, more nimble and better able to handle our customers’ needs.”

Best’s transformation strategy includes shifting more business to Cambodia; increasing overseas purchases; closing facilities in King of Prussia, PA, and Mahwah, NJ; reducing manufacturing at its Cordele, GA, facility; launching another hospitality apparel line; and consolidating healthcare and institutional into one division.

“We will continue normal business operations and, hopefully, even build on that through our restructuring,” Korman says.