100-year family clothing manufacturer files for bankruptcy - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

100-year family clothing manufacturer files for bankruptcy

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CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) -

Hardwick Clothes, Inc. in Cleveland has filed for bankruptcy. It's been a family business for 133 years and is America's oldest clothing manufacturer.


The company is known for its suiting and business attire, but it has also sewn U.S. soldiers' uniforms and even the famous green jackets worn by winners in the golf Master's tournament.


With such a rich history, Hardwick's is hoping it can keep its doors open.


"I would hate to see this plant close," said Paul Bates. "We're family. We've stuck together."


Bates, who got his start in Hardwick's mail room nearly 30 years ago, has worked his way up to the company's general manager.  He said he's proud of the hard work that happens inside the plant.


"It's just unbelievable," he said, applauding the worker's handmade skills. "It's rare. You don't find that today."


Hardwick's has survived some of the toughest times in history, including the Great Depression, both World Wars and even three fires. Bates hopes the company will survive its current bankruptcy situation, too.


"The actuarial assumptions and the economic realities of our business didn't meet," said fifth-generation CEO, Tommy Hopper.


Hopper said filing for bankruptcy was the "only course of action" the company had in order to save its 225 current jobs and company assets.


Hardwick's received a $7 million immediate payment demand from the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, but with $11 million in assets, the books couldn't balance.


"We're in a tough business, there's no denying that," said Hopper.


But like each cloth that gets pushed through the sewing machines on the floor, Hardwick's is determined it will pull through.


"We're Hardwick's," said Bates. "We're survivors."


The company said it has received some interest from some new investors, but no deal has been reached yet.

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