America's oldest privately held clothing manufacturer has filed for bankruptcy after a federal pension protection agency ordered the company to replenish its underfunded retirement plan.

But the owners of the 133-year-old Hardwick Clothes Inc., insist the business remains viable and will continue operations while it reorganizes its finances -- and perhaps negotiates a sale or new investment in the company --under the protection of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

"We're certainly not insolvent," said Tommy Hopper, the fifth generation CEO of the family-owned company in Cleveland, Tenn. "Our building and assets are free and clear and we've always paid our bills so this was not a decision we entered into lightly.

"But we feel like we had to file a Chapter 11 petition (in bankruptcy court) to protect our business and its 225 employees. This is really the only course of action that we had."

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